Money must still be taboo in many American families. Only 20 percent of parents involve their teens in financial discussions, according to a Charles Schwab survey released last month. Ask many college students about their finances, their financial aid, their taxes – and you’ll often hear “my parents do it for me.” While it’s understandable that parents want to help their children and perhaps not make them grow up too fast, not discussing money could be a greater detriment than having those conversations and encouraging independence.

Among the survey results:
70 percent of parents teach their children how to do laundry while 43 percent teach them how to pay bills.
93 percent of parents worry their teens will make one of these mistakes: overspending or living beyond their means, getting in over their head with credit card debt, failing to save for emergencies or failing to budget.
More than 67 percent of parents think learning money management is not among their teens’ top priorities.
Only 14 percent of parents have taught their kids what a 401(k) is.

Even if you say nothing, your kids will likely observe your own money habits. They’ll then decide whether to follow your example or not.

Note: Charles Schwab hired a research firm to interview 1,000 parents with teens ages 13-18 for its “Parents and Money” survey.

April 21, 2008