Communication and Financial Literacy
Let’s quickly review what financial literacy means. It is the ability to understand the financial issues we deal with every day, like earning money, saving money, preparing budgets, paying bills, getting loans, using debit and credit cards wisely, managing debt, and learning how to invest, etc. It means building the skills we need to manage money to ensure we don’t struggle financially or develop bad money habits. It gives us control and reduces stress in our lives.
There is no “magic pill” or book or class that will teach us everything we need to know. Becoming financially literate takes time and effort. And communication is the key that will open the door to being able to control our finances and to be financially successful as adults.
Talking about financial matters should begin with your parents or grandparents or guardians. It’s often uncomfortable to bring up the subject at home, but it shouldn’t be regardless of your age. We will have to deal with financial issues all of our lives.
Our parents and guardians are our first teachers and should be the ones who start talking to us about money. It should begin somewhere around first grade, when we all begin to form our behaviors and beliefs, and continue throughout our lives as our needs change. Parents have experienced many of the things that their kids go through at various stages in life and, as a result, have a valuable insight as to what works and what doesn’t – what to do and what to avoid.
Unfortunately many parents don’t feel they have the skills or knowledge to teach finance in a way that will interest their children and help them understand how to earn, spend, and save money. Others may seem overbearing in their efforts to keep their children from facing some unpleasant situation they went through.
Although 83% of adults think parents are responsible for teaching their children about financial issues, less than 30% talk to their kids about money at least once a month. About the same number – 30% don’t ever talk about money to their kids, and that is unfortunate.
Do Kids Need to Learn About Money?
Research shows that young adults who’ve been educated in financial issues are more successful – they make better decisions regarding credit, have better credit scores, and are less likely to default on loans and avoid painful mistakes.
Because of this research, many states have started to mandate financial classes for students in high school. That’s a great step forward, although it would be even better if it started in earlier, with classes, or at least some lessons, beginning in middle school and then continuing throughout high school.
Talking openly with friends is another option. If you are having a problem saving money, it’ ok to ask a friend for some advice. Try to speak to friends who seems to be knowledgeable about the problem you are trying to resolve. For instance, if you are trying to rent an apartment, talk to friends who already living on their own. Or, if you are having a problem paying off a credit card, try to talk to a friend who isn’t overwhelmed with credit card debt.
Many of your peers have gone through the same things. So don’t be afraid or stressed about discussing financial issues by either asking questions or by answering them for a friend. If you have the opportunity to form a group to talk about “money” on a regular schedule, like once every couple of weeks, do it.
6 ways to improve your relationship with money
Talking to friends about money
If you want to talk to someone in your family, or a trusted adult, or to friends, here are some tips to make it easier.
- Ask them if they would be willing to talk about some financial issue you are having.
- You can start by telling them that you trust that anything they tell you will be good advice, because they always have your best interests at heart.
- Tell them you are just asking for advice, not for a loan. People may not be open to the conversation if they think that you are going to ask them for money.
- Set up a specific date and time for the discussion. If the first conversation goes well, try to make it a regular meeting date, like once a week. It may seem strange to set a time and place to begin conversations about money, but it will make things easier and everyone will know what’s expected.
- Be sure it’s not in an area that has a lot of different conversations going on at the same time, unless you want to have other people join in.
- Narrow the conversation. Stay on topic. Tell them what your financial concerns are and ask your questions. If the conversation starts to bring in other issues, bring it back. You can say something like, “I know that we need to talk about that too, but could we just spend this time on financial stuff.”
- Keep your emotions in check. This isn’t the time to blame someone for not helping you with your financial education earlier. What’s in the past can’t be changed. Your expectations should be to improve your current and future situation.
- Don’t be judge mental or accusatory. If you or the other person are getting flustered or angry, stop and reschedule if possible.
- Try not to interrupt the other person. They may have a difficult time forming their ideas and may take longer than you like to get to the point. But as long as they’re trying and staying on point, try to listen patiently. Respect their point of view, even if you don’t agree. Remember, you don’t have to take anyone’s advice, it’s simply a matter of knowing what options are available to you.
- Stay calm and at the same eye level. If possible, everyone should be seated comfortably. If you want to take notes, ask if it’s ok so that you can remember their advice. Don’t stand or pace.
If talking to family or friends isn’t an option, find the information you need elsewhere. Remember, this is a lifelong activity.
- Courses are available at various schools or community centers.
- If you like what we’re offering for you at WeThriveTogether, continue to attend the online classes. Invite others so that you can talk about it together afterwards.
- Books and audiobooks are another option. Your library will have a ton of books available for you for free. Ask your librarian to recommend some for you.
- There are absolutely tons of sites on line that can give you financial information. Now you have to be careful here – many of these sites will try to sell you something, including charging you for their advice. And scam artists are everywhere.
- Don’t give out any personal information like your social security number, account number, address, etc. Just leave the site if you get a “bad vibe.” Don’t worry about being rude – you always have to protect yourself.
- A good place to start is MyMoney.gov. This is a US government site that 22 different government agencies who come together to protect the financial well-being of all individuals and families in the US. There are different levels of information, including for teachers and researchers. Search out the topics you want to know about.
- Education.Ohio.Gov is another good site to get started. The site provides links to great resources at all education levels.
- Again, don’t forget about us – WeThriveTogether’s mission is to help others learn how to deal with difficult issues and is available 24/7.
- Check out TED talks. These are often people who have gone through personal problems and they share what they have learned.
There’s one more thing to discuss when we talk about parents and financial education. There may come a time, as your parents age, that they will need your help. You should take the time to talk to them about what you will be able to do for them.
This conversation may be even more difficult than the ones where you ask them to help you.
Parents and grandparents are often reluctant to burden their children with thoughts of the negative financial aspects of aging, illness, and death. But there may come a time when children need to help parents protect their assets, help with their healthcare.
If you bring up the subject gently, being sure to tell your parents that you just want to respect their wishes, they may be willing to discuss their own financial worries. You can tell them that you, and your siblings (if any), can avoid disagreements later if an emergency arises and someone needs to help them with their finances.
Ask them to write down anything you may need to know, like who their healthcare providers are, what the wishes are if they can’t care for themselves, where their financial information is and who they have appointed to make health care decisions and financial decisions if they can’t do it for themselves.
And then be ready to sit back and listen to “what they want.” If they’re not ready to have this conversation, tell them you are there for them, whenever they are ready.