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Dollars and Cents: Having “The Talk” with your Children

Susan Wells Jenevein of multi-family office Tolleson Wealth Management explains why the conversation doesn’t have to be tough.
By D Partner Studio |
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Every family wants to prepare their children and grandchildren to succeed in life. Having ongoing conversations about tough topics is one important element, and that includes discussions about money. Some families are open books and disclose exactly how much the family makes and owns. Others insist it’s too early and that children could lose sight of initiative and self-discipline.

While it’s understandable to be hesitant about the money talk, it’s important to start somewhere. Silence leaves the door open for other voices to take your place. At Tolleson Wealth Management, I partner with clients to design transformational philanthropy to help preserve family wealth and identity for generations. Our team offers comprehensive financial services to navigate the complexities of wealth while supporting the family narrative. Believe it or not, children are often aware of the family’s spending. What they aren’t aware of is how much the family saves, invests, and gives back. They are not typically introduced to taxes, estate planning, and the skills required to work with legal and financial advisers.

Share Family Stories

A University of Michigan study found that children’s spending styles (“spendthrift” or “tightwad”) develop as early as five years old and that waiting to work with children until they are teenagers is likely too late.1 Parents can teach lessons about saving, spending, and sharing early. Talking about saving for vacation lets children know trips don’t automatically happen. If parents talk about things they sacrificed to save for a vacation, children learn delayed gratification.

Sharing your relatives’ struggles, perseverance, and success teaches persistence. Research shows that children whose families shared these stories had higher self-esteem and emotional well-being.2 This is an opportunity for older relatives to impact the youngest generations.

Cufflink Values

Family values are fundamental in raising children who have a healthy relationship with themselves, their families, and money. One family we know identified seven core values and made a set of cards with questions about those values. At meals, they took turns pulling a card and discussing it.

Another father continued to talk about his family’s four core values through his child’s teen years, even as he received eye rolls in return. When his daughter married, she gave him a pair of cufflinks with the initials of their core values. Children and teens are listening.

Make It Fun

The marketplace has innovative ways for children and teens to build financial skills. Investing together allows parents and children to learn by experiencing essential fundamentals. Grandparents who give their grandchildren a little to invest after deciding on stocks together can connect their values with a lasting gift.

Preparing children for a successful relationship with money is as easy as telling family stories and talking about values. Our wish for every family is to have a good, long-running conversation with their children about their values, history, and shared resources. Children will be resilient, emotionally adjusted, and grateful to parents who prepare them for their financial futures. 


Disclosures: This article was compiled by Tolleson Wealth Management. It was prepared and distributed solely for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy a security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy. You should consult your professional advisors before making any tax, legal financial planning, or investment decisions.

1https://michiganross.umich.edu/rtia-articles/new-research-shows-children-form-attitudes-about-money-young-age

2https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/familynarrativeslab/family-narratives/

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D Partner Studio

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