Bad News for Your Son, Worse News for Your Daughter

You can make your kids' financial futures much brighter.

Aug 31, 2014 at 10:00AM

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Photo: Hobbies on a Budget via Flickr.

Raising children isn't easy, and there are a lot of balls to juggle as you tend to their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth. One important ball that gets dropped a little too often is the development of their financial smarts. According to various studies, many parents could do a better job of financial parenting, and daughters seem more underserved than sons.

Insufficient discussions and a gender imbalance
For starters, consider the results of the T. Rowe Price 2014 Parents, Kids and Money Survey, which targeted kids aged 8 to 14. You might be surprised by some of their findings.

Only 58% of boys and 50% of girls say their parents talk to them about setting financial goals. Neither number is impressive, but girls are especially underserved. Meanwhile, the following numbers likely explain either the cause or the result of that: 80% of parents with a boy think their child understands the value of a dollar, compared with only 69% of parents with a girl. Not surprisingly, 45% of boys think they're very smart or extremely smart about money, compared with just 38% of girls.

The study also sheds light on why talking about money with your children is important:

  • 58% of kids whose parents frequently talk to them about saving for college save for their own college education versus 23% of kids whose parents don't.
  • 66% of kids whose parents frequently talk about family finances feel smart about money versus 37% of kids whose parents don't.
  • 60% of kids whose parents frequently talk about setting financial goals say they are "savers" versus 46% of kids whose parents don't.

Think about those numbers a bit. We know from the Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey that 36% of American workers surveyed reported having less than $1,000 in savings or investments. (It's an even uglier 68% among those earning $35,000 or less.) Parents can't guarantee a great life for their kids, but talking about money and how best to save and spend it can go a long way toward keeping your kids out of these categories in adulthood.

What to do
Don't expect your kids to learn valuable financial lessons in school, either. The number of schools tackling financial topics is growing, but according to a 2013 T. Rowe Price study, only 3% of respondents reported learning what they know about saving and spending in school, while 95% of young adults say they got their financial knowledge from mom and dad.

That survey also listed topics that many kids wish their parents would discuss with them more often. Here are some of them, in descending order of preference: How banks and credit cards work, how to manage money, what things will cost with inflation, how to set a savings goal, how investing and the stock market work, and their family's financial situation.

And finally, if you feel badly because girls seem to get the short end of the financial stick, take heart: Various studies have shown that women have a financial edge over men, who tend to be more impulsive and overconfident than women. Women still have to fight for equality in the workplace, but when they're in charge of money, they often outperform men.

So keep talking to your kids about money -- or start doing so if you haven't. You can help set them up for more financially comfortable lives and perhaps even early retirement!

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Longtime Fool specialist Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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