Money-Smart Kids/Let's Talk about Sex
Published 1:04 pm, Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Of course I knew that headline would get your attention.
In full disclosure, I'm a bit heated today and will use this week's article to vent. A reader recently forwarded me a poll conducted by The Angus Reid Strategies Group which surveyed 624 Canadian parents and revealed that "overall, moms and dads feel better prepared to discuss sex, drugs and alcohol than to breach the topic of finances."
The word "prepared" is code word for "comfortable." You have got to be kidding me! How difficult is it to discuss with your children an everyday event in your household -- using money? Don't we use money every day?
This survey is telling us that it is easier to teach your kids how to use a condom and how to handle the significant peer pressure that accompanies underage drinking than to talk about finances. Really?
You must be right, Mr. Angus Reid Strategies. Simply talking about buying decisions when you go to the store with your kids is pretty tough. I would imagine that as your pulling that credit card out of your wallet, it is pretty stressful to ask your child if they know what a credit card is.
I'm sure you'd probably break out in hives if they asked you the tough question, "Where does the money come from?" Hmmm, that's a difficult one -- try this. "I go to work and earn money. My company puts that money in my checking account every two weeks and when the credit company sends me a bill, I write a check to pay them back."
But that could only lead to other brain-taxing questions like "But what happens if you don't have enough money to pay them?" You might have to go to Wikipedia for this answer, but I'll give you a hint. Try answering, "They charge me a penalty."
I hope you see where I am headed with this sarcastic tirade. If the above-mentioned dialogue seems ridiculous, then you have caught my drift -- it is!
This survey, although well-intentioned and of course helps the financial literacy cause because it stimulates conversation, is far off the mark. It is not that parents feel better prepared to talk about sex than money. It's that they deem getting pregnant at a young age as a greater danger for their children than not understanding money concepts. I haven't personally thought through whether the conversation ranking should be:
1. Where we're having dinner tonight.
2. Which lawn care service we should use
3. Favorite reality television shows
You get the point! It's not that talking about sex/alcohol/drugs is easier than discussing finances. It's not that you are more or less prepared for either discussion. It's the order your family places on different values. Yes, values are what drive the importance of conversations. I'd like to watch videos of these parents talking about sex versus money. You're never fully prepared for either conversation, but having the conversation trumps not discussing them at all. Maybe that's a potential new reality television show for us?
Okay, I vented and saved myself a ton in therapy bills. Sorry for not stimulating the economy by having to spend money on that one. I promise to be my more happy self next week.
Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York and Stamford, created the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.