Christmas symbolizes a time for family. This year when so many of us are unable to see loved ones, I find myself reflecting on the people I grew up around and the people who raised me a little more than I usually do.
After all, it is well known that the people you grow up around- whatever your relationship with them may be- have a significant impact on one’s adulthood. It impacts how you keep your apartment, the food you cook, and- of course-how you think about money.
A recurring theme in the literature about finance is the importance of money not being a taboo topic. It is a common phrase that classy people do not talk about politics or money. Growing up, at the dinner table, my family apparently decidedly dissed the idea of being classy. I would have intense discussions about those very two things.
I remember that when we had guests- the poor spectators- would often be shocked. How could my parents- especially my dad- indulge my opinion on difficult politico-economic topics? How could they let me disagree? After all, I was a child. And for the more conservative ones, I was a girl.
I grew up with parents who were also small business owners. For as long as I can remember, and despite my mother’s ultimately futile efforts to keep work out of the home, my dad would inevitably say something about the business. I would listen in and ask questions. And they would patiently explain to me what the terms they were talking about- lending, selling, taxes, profits, and even recessions- were. They never hid the realities of owning a business from me- even the harsher financial ones. Most importantly, they didn’t shut my opinion down even if we disagreed.
I was afforded a strange freedom- that of knowledge about what was happening with money in my family, the things we could afford, and the things we could not. Better, my questions about how money could be managed and grown were answered. It was not a topic that was shrouded in secrecy but a continual conversation that we rather unknowingly had.
In my research, I chanced upon a study by Personal Capital that concludes that most parents only ever talk to their children about their general financial standing, evading the scarier aspects of finance. Moreover, children tend to imitate the spending habits of their parents. Important topics like investing were seen to be mostly glossed over with men being 35% more likely to be taught by their parents to invest than women.
Additionally, the respondents in the study that were seen to have a higher net worth also had parents who talked to them about investing and recessions.
I think of this a lot- especially with all the uncertainty we are surrounded with now.
I begin to think- should we limit this to parents and children? What about our friends? What about our community? How do we get “money talk” inside our home? How do we extend it outside? Isn’t communication the first step to empowerment and education? Can it help create a more financially equitable world? Can it help us feel less alone?
* I also recommend checking out this Forbes article by Liz Fraiser. It does a great job of summarizing the study I referenced and provides unique insight into how to talk to children about the difficulties we are facing.