Telling Kids ‘No’ About Money

Your financial future starts at home, especially when you begin filling that home with children. Establishing limits is part of parenthood and your skill at teaching this lesson directly impacts your quality of life in retirement.

I remember going to the grocery store when my children were little. I put them in the cart and hurried through the store to get all I needed as quickly as possible. If your store experience resembles mine, inevitably as you wait on the checkout line, the candy display comes into the focus of your chocolate-loving toddler.

Avoiding a scene at the register was forefront in my mind, as I’m sure it is in yours, too. What’s the harm in buying a piece of candy to keep the peace (not only for me but for the people around me)? But my learning to say “no” taught my toddler (now a college student) that our future visits to the grocery store didn’t always mean a treat.

This lesson is valuable for children’s growth both personally and financially. It’s also a hard lesson both to teach and to learn.

In recent years, more than a third of the nation’s adults ages 18 to 31 lived in their parents’ home, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This represents a steady increase over the number of same-aged adults living at home before the 2007 recession.

Even in the best of times, “parenthood doesn’t retire,” notes the recent Merrill Lynch study “Family & Retirement: The Elephant in the Room” examining the challenges of one generation supporting at least one other – often grown children.

“In today’s uncertain economy, adult children and other younger relatives struggling with career stalls and financial difficulties are increasingly turning to older family members for a helping hand,” the study reads. “Many pre-retirees and retirees have insufficient savings, putting them on shaky ground as they attempt to balance the competing priorities and tradeoffs of preparing for and financially managing their own retirement while also helping family members.”

 A U.S. Trust survey of Americans with net worth of $3 million or more also finds that more than half gave “substantial” financial help to adult children. Some parents also enter debt or even delay retirement.

Wanting to give your child what he or she needs is one of the obvious aspects of parenting. But children’s needs are not necessarily their wants; learning to differentiate the two often comes hard to parents (and for adult consumers). As you get through each tough stage of parenting, saying no becomes even more significant – especially if your children grow up and hit financial difficulty.

You naturally tend to follow your instincts and help make your children’s lives easier. Noble and loving – and potentially harmful to your own financial life and your future retirement plans.

Will saying yes hurt your financial future? And if so, how can you ensure you’re provided for in your later years? Start with teaching your child the difference between a need and a want.

And next time you hear a screaming toddler in the grocery store, remember that some parent is probably just teaching an important financial lesson.

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Maureen Crimmins is the co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management LLC in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Her websites are www.CrimminsWM.com and www.RootsofWealth.com.

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