One of the major goals parents often have is to make their children’s life as easy as possible, or, at least, easier than they themselves had it. But that shouldn’t be the only goal. Equally important is for children to receive an education in the family’s economy. Only 16% of Millennials qualify as “financially literate.” But that education is not one you learn from books; it’s the kind parents teach directly. If these lessons aren’t learned, parents risk gifting their children a rocky life, not an easy one. Here are a few deficits in many Millennials’ skill sets.
Any education in finance
Growing up affluent, one may not understand the spider web effect (I may or may not have just coined that.) of financial decisions. The idea is if you pull at one thread, other threads will ripple — and not just the contiguous ones.
For example, if a child creates financial havoc in one area (i.e., by making a poor financial decision), he or she can wreak havoc in other areas of a family’s finances. Rather than just being the beneficiary of a car or a college education (where the donor is the parents), children should be taught the financial implications of buying a car or paying college tuition. A lucky Millennial who is the recipient of the car or the education might not understand how loans work, what it means to use an asset for a specific purpose, to pay off an entire debt or to make a down payment.
Someone should have these kinds of conversations with a child. And, in most instances, that will be a parent, a.k.a the donor. In some ways, these conversations will prove more valuable to the child than the goods, service or even — if they are extremely lucky — any inheritance coming their way. The conversations and lessons might be the most valuable lesson they receive toward leading a successful life. In general, it is best to learn about finances through real-world examples and not abstract scenarios, and the family is a good place to start.
Long-term planning & goals
The benefit of having these types of conversations is the child would understand what kind of planning and decision-making resulted in their parents’ ability to provide a car, a house, a vacation or college tuition. What sacrifices were made? What investments helped finance these lifestyle benefits? Ideally, this information will contribute to the kid’s success and, if all goes well, the possibility of actual retirement. This is equally true of affluent families and ones that are less so. If parents are not forthcoming with discussions of this nature, it is incumbent on them to ask questions.
Children should also get in the habit of understanding what assets their family possesses and what they might inherit. If they don’t ask eventually, they might not understand just what financial position they will be in — and what financial assistance they can reasonably expect — when they have to take care of themselves.
Vision and responsibility
Why is being financially independent important? Laugh, if you will, but it can be hard to define the purpose of wealth. After all, why not just live in the forest and forage for wild berries? Many Millennials didn’t have a sit-down with their parents to discuss these things forthrightly and openly — especially the affluent Millennials. As such, a certain instinct for self-preservation might wane in them.
For instance, conversations are not being held in relation to the idea of stewardship — which usually will involve creating a disciplined budgeting plan, organized planning and asset protection — but is very important. In fact, it will almost definitely be far more important than just the inheritance itself.
Parents and children need to communicate more openly and with greater frequency about issues that will directly impact the child one day. Having conversations about financial decisions and their consequences is an important segue into adulthood. If parents think they are protecting their children from the world — they have another thing coming. This closed-mouthed behavior will only cripple the child for life. But it’s not too late to have these conversations today! If you’re the parent, give your child a call. More likely, you are the Millennial adult, and you need to call up Mom or Dad and request a chat.