Family Focus

For Love and Money

Parents who teach their kids about money set them up for success—financially and romantically.

A happy figurine family stands atop a pile of coins.
Photo by Bradley Slade

It can be frustrating to watch your kids spend their entire allowance on cheap toys that end up in the garbage or to discuss pros and cons when your teen wants to dip into his savings for cash for a movie ticket.

From the first piggy bank to the first credit card, teaching children proper money management and budgeting habits takes both time and patience—and can feel futile.

However, family-life professor Ashley LeBaron-Black (BS ’16, MS ’18) says that while teaching kids about money might be a headache, the benefits of financial literacy stretch beyond good spending and saving habits. LeBaron-Black’s research, recently published in the Journal of Family Issues, discovered something new—children who learn proper money management from their parents have more fulfilling relationships with their significant others in young adulthood.

“It’s one more reason why teaching kids about money is so important; it can have relational consequences for them as they grow,” says LeBaron-Black.

Because financial behaviors are linked to relationship outcomes, children who learn how to save and budget from their parents are more likely to adopt healthy financial skills in adulthood. Those positive habits lead to decreased stress about money and less pressure on their relationships.

“The kind of people who are careful with their money and put effort into it are the kind of people who are careful and put effort into their relationships,” says LeBaron-Black. “Doing daily acts of nurturing to keep a relationship healthy is similar to doing regular things like budgeting to keep financial health strong.”

LeBaron-Black lays out four points for parents as they teach kids how to manage money—and increase their potential for happier relationships in the future.

1. Model healthy financial behavior.

There’s no substitute for the example parents set by allowing their kids to observe them budget, plan, and monitor expenses. “The example of parents predicts outcomes like financial attitudes, financial behavior, and financial well-being later in life for children,” says LeBaron-Black.

2. Talk about money.

It’s more important than ever to invite children into open and honest conversations about money. For some, talking about income, savings, and financial stress has been taboo in the past. But LeBaron-Black recommends normalizing these conversations to help children build understand- ing and learn how to navigate tensions that accompany financial responsibility. “These are sometimes hard topics, but they need to be talked about, or it’s to the kids’ detriment later on,” she says. 

3. Let kids practice.

When children make their own financial decisions early on, they establish healthy habits that will carry into adulthood. Children who have practiced managing money become more confident in their abilities and won’t be surprised when challenges arise as adults. Parents can help their kids grow financially by showing them how to write a budget, make purchases, and open a savings account at a local bank or credit union.

4. It’s usually not the amount of money that matters, says LeBaron-Black, it’s how couples manage money.

Proper money management requires trust, respect, and honesty. “I hope that couples will talk more openly and work on financial behaviors and habits together,” she says. “Being disciplined with money and selfless with your partner leads to both healthy financial management and a healthy romantic relationship.”

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