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Money Talk: The 10 Best Things You Can Say to Your Children about Money

by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman

Many parents do not know how, do not want to, or lack the communication skills necessary to talk to their children about money in general. So when a money crisis develops, the potential to pass fearful and negative attitudes towards money to the next generation increases.

How effective are you at talking about money? What words do you use when you talk about money in front of or directly to your children? Below you will find a list of the ten best things you can say to your children about money. Use it to gage your money talk skill level.

  1. "It's allowance time. Everybody get your envelopes!" One of the main reasons for having allowances is to teach children about budgeting. The envelope system will help you do that. Children are concrete thinkers. That means if it is not in their hands, it is not in their minds. Envelopes will help you make the teaching of budgeting a concrete process. Label envelopes with several budget areas, including savings, investment, charity, and spending. Children can divide their own allowance by placing the amount of money they choose in the appropriate envelopes.
  2. "I'm willing to pay part of it." This phrase is useful when your child wants something that exceeds the budgeted amount you had earmarked in your budget. If you had $80 set aside for sneakers and they want a pair that costs over $100, this sentence defines your limit. It also invites the child to take responsibility for coming up with the difference. It curbs feelings of entitlement and allows children to take ownership for achieving their desires. In addition, if some of their money is invested in the article, they are more likely to take care of it.
  3. "Did you bring any of your money?" This money talk question is helpful for those situations where children ask impulsively for things while you are shopping. It helps them to see that they need to have forethought in the money purchases they make.
  4. "The car needs to be washed. What do you think that's worth?" The purpose of a child's allowance is so they can learn how to spend, save, and use money. If they want or feel they need more money than the allowance provides, there are additional ways to get it. Doing out of the ordinary jobs around the house, over and above their normal chores, is one way for them to earn additional income. This will help them internalize the concept that if they want more they can work more.
  5. "Help me figure out the tip." This type of money talk helps children in several ways. In addition to providing a real life example to use basic math skills, it also gives children the awareness of the cost of the meal so they can appreciate what is being provided for them. Learning about tipping also gives children the message that being appreciative for the service provided is expressed in the form of a tip.
  6. "Oh, I think you gave me the wrong change." Allow your children to overhear you telling cashiers or waiters when the change is incorrect. If you were short changed it models sticking up for yourself. If you received too much change, your words demonstrate honesty and communicate integrity around money.
  7. "Our charity jar is almost full. What should we do with the money this time?" Teach the charity habit by contributing to a charity jar regularly at allowance time. Set a goal as a family as to how much you want to accumulate during a specific time frame. Watch as the jar fills up with the individual family contributions. Decide together where to donate the money. Give your children opportunities to have input on this important decision.
  8. "Wow! I found a quarter. The money just keeps on coming." Money comes to us in a variety of ways and in unexpected times and places. Finding a coin on the ground is a sign that the universe is continually active in providing money for those who are open to receiving it. Stay open and allow the Attraction Principle to bring you money even in the smallest of ways. It is a sign that more it is on the way. Appreciate what you receive verbally so that your children can hear your gratefulness.
  9. "Bummer. Sounds like you have a money problem. What can you do about it?" This piece of money talk communicates to children that the current money problem they face is their problem. It informs them you will be the supportive listener, but not a rescuer. With this style of language, you also remind yourself that there are times when allowing children to experience the consequences of their actions and choices is the best way for them to learn.
  10. "You don't have to wait until you're a grown-up." Children can make money, own a business, save money, invest in the stock market, and give to charities. Money is not just for adults. It is for anyone who has parents that are willing to help their children become financially literate.

About the Authors

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or to obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today:

Reviewed by athealth on February 6, 2014.