That’s a complex question, but as you listen, you hear their heart’s motivation when they go on to say, ‘I know how hard it’s been for me and my parents, and I don’t want my kids to make the same mistakes I did.’ This is the question and underlying motivation that keeps them up at night; this is what keeps me up at night, too.
Well, the answer starts with my follow-up question:
‘How often do you talk with your children about money?’
At this point of the discussion, most people pause uncomfortably, look away, blush and wring their hands a little.
Yes, I went there. I said it: the real talk is the money talk.
Clearly, as many people would prefer death over public speaking, many parents would rather have the safe sex conversation with their teenager rather than having the money talk.
Why do so many people find talking about money more confronting than talking about sex? Is it because we don’t want to answer inevitable questions like, ‘So how much money do you make? Why don’t you make more? Why don’t you give me more?’ Oh, isn’t that a can of worms. Perhaps it’s that we simply don’t have a framework for how to chat comfortably about our fiscal habits and fancies.
Why is it so hard? *sigh*
Well, the quick answer is everything we know, we’ve learnt somewhere. Initially, we adopt the outlook of our parents and their beliefs about the role that money plays in our lives. Over time, we get the chance to make up our own mind about such key issues, but most people forget to do this until they run into a foundational problem when their business outlook conflicts with their life outlook.
Too many people are operating their lives, their business and even their relationships based on either outdated or just plain unstable beliefs about the role money plays in their lives.
Think about what money means to you. If you're quick to answer, ‘Freedom!’ go back and think some more about it just to be sure.
Identify what money messages you recall hearing from your parents. (If you feel the need to adopt the fetal position at this point, you’ve probably hit upon something worth sorting out).
When chatting with teenagers about money, they have a natural tendency to internalise responsibility for all problems, so only talk about how money works, how value is exchanged and how you work with it. Don’t expect them to be your personal adviser, confidant, co-parent or your CFO.
Teenagers may zealously believe you can’t compare the value of a designer Kardashian handbag to a set of 20-inch alloy mag wheels for a car, so don’t try.
A better way to help compare apples with oranges is to break down the value of your purchases into a common denominator with this question, whether you’re talking handbags or mag wheels:
‘How many hours did you have to work to afford that?’
From this point on there will be questions about pay rates, education and skills, as well as employment versus self-employment. Hopefully, it will then lead to conversations about appreciation, thoughtfulness and sacrifices made so that others may benefit.
In fact, the money talk is a relaxed way of encouraging ongoing discussions about money and what’s important.
So, suck it up and set a date to have ‘the talk’ with your kids.