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Family Money Matters: 5 tips to talk to your children about money

We asked ATBers how they’re talking to their kids about money. Here’s their best advice.

By Well Said Editorial Team 16 April 2024 3 min read

Ask any adult in your life what they wish they’d learned more about at a younger age, and most answers will probably include one thing: money.

Finances are often the greatest source of stress for Canadians and can be associated with poor mental and physical health.

“It’s something I wish my parents had taught me,” said one ATB team member, who is now having weekly money conversations with her children.

Here are the top tips from ATBers on how to talk about money with your kids.

 

Start young

Money is not a common topic in formal education and can often be taboo in many homes. 

Financial avoidance, or not thinking or talking about money, can have huge consequences. You might find yourself overspending, racking up credit card debt or inadvertently teaching your children that money is scary.

Money trauma – an intense and enduring emotional response to current or past financial distress – impacts more than a third of Canadians. It can create poor mental health and cause us to sabotage our financial futures.

“As a child, my parents never discussed banking with me. Now we are involving our children in their banking at a young age.”

By starting young, you can build good habits and positively shape your children’s financial perspective. 

 

Teach the value of money

For many of us, having money means having a sense of safety and security. It can’t buy happiness, but it can allow us to care for our needs.

“I tell my kids that money helps to keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet and food in your mouth,” said another ATBer. 

She reminds her children to pay bills first, save second and play last. “If you pay and then save, you can enjoy it more knowing it’s not going to draw you down.”

Another team member agrees. “I teach my kids about good and bad interest, spending within your means and saving percentages of your income. They are becoming money smart under 10 years of age.”

 

Introduce taxes

Taxes can be difficult to explain to children. If they weren't taught about taxes early on, it can be a shock when they see the deductions on their first paycheque.

Teaching your children about the Canadian tax system and what taxes pay for can help them build more positive associations with those deductions. Using real-life examples – like explaining how the local playground, roads and hospitals are built and maintained – can make the topic more easily digestible. 

“We tax our kids’ birthday money to teach them about income taxes and put that amount in savings,” said another ATBer. “They’re pretty open to it and super excited about the 50/30/20 rule as well.”

The 50/30/20 rule recommends budgeting for 50 per cent needs, 30 per cent wants, and 20 per cent savings.


Encourage kids to ask questions

The financial landscape is constantly changing, and even those with a good sense of financial literacy are always learning.

Another ATB team member engages her university age children in regular money conversations. She has introduced them to the family’s financial planners and involves them in meetings.

“When meeting with our advisors, I remind myself to ask questions even if I already know the answer,” she said. “This helps our daughters learn to be courageous and ask questions, and to know that financial learning is ongoing. I also rephrase things to demonstrate that it’s okay to ensure proper understanding of the answer.” 

 

Open a bank account for your children

When kids are young, they might not have a strong understanding about the concept of money. “They just know they can buy Lego cars or fancy hair clips with it,” laughed one ATBer.

But allowing your children to spend and save on their own can be incredibly valuable.

“Being exposed to spending money at a young age has taught my kids how to buy smartly or save for something they want but can’t yet afford. My youngest is not very good at saving money, but she’s quickly learning that if she spends it all, she will have nothing left over.”

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