It’s hard for many of us to talk about money. Money conversations can be stressful and awkward, and you may be tempted to just stay mum on the subject. However, it’s vital that you pass financial wisdom on to your kids, even when they’re adults. It’s important to teach them about money growing up, but there are some things better discussed when they are older. Here are the money conversations you should be having with your adult children.
1. Financial boundaries
If you are supporting your adult children and you’d like to stop, or if you want to avoid it altogether, it’s important to set up some financial boundaries. If you don’t want to support them financially at all, tell them that up front and stick to it. That way, you won’t end up paying for things and resenting it.
If your adult kids are relying on you for part or all of their financial support, sit down together and form a plan. Cutting them off entirely probably won’t work for either of you, but you can start slow; back off on payments over the course of six months to a year, and set up concrete steps along the way. For instance, you may decide to stop giving them “fun” money right away, but be willing to cover their cellphone plan for six more months.
Make sure you go about having this conversation compassionately. Tell your child that you love them and that you want this for them as well as for you. Offer to help them along the way, to be available to answer questions or aid in budgeting, and let them know that you will always be there for them in other ways. (See also: Are You Ruining Your Retirement by Spoiling Your Kids?)
2. Financial values
Have a conversation with your adult child about what they want in life and how much those things will realistically cost. This is the time to talk about the financials behind car ownership, homeownership, traveling the world, and more. Make sure they have an understanding of how much money they’ll need to have in order to afford the lifestyle they want, and how much they need to make in a week, a month, and a year to achieve that.
Talk to them, also, about what is really important in life. Tell them that fancy cars, big houses, and lavish vacations aren’t the keys to happiness. Ask them to think about what they would pursue if they were dying or what they would miss most if they suffered a serious injury. This can help them figure out what is important to them and what they may not be willing to trade their time and money for.
3. What it means to live within your means
Your adult kids need to understand the importance of spending less than they earn. Show them how to calculate this so they can determine for themselves when to spend their money and when it would be better to save or invest it. Your kids need to figure out how to sacrifice spending on superfluous things in order to live a financially secure life.
4. How to make a budget
Along the same lines, your adult children need to know how to make a budget. You can actually begin teaching this in childhood by giving your kid a weekly allowance and helping them break down how they want to spend their money. Even if you wait until they’re older, though, you need to sit down with them and make sure your kids understand what they need to spend money on, what they want to spend money on, and how to allocate those dollars accordingly. (See also: Build a First Budget in 5 Easy Steps)
5. The benefits and dangers of loans and credit cards
In a culture where credit is readily available, your kids need to know how to evaluate different credit opportunities based on benefits and drawbacks, as well as how to wisely use credit. As soon as they are old enough to obtain financing of their own, you need to talk with your kids about credit cards, educational loans, personal loans, and home loans.
It will help to tell stories from your own life. Whether you’ve made financial mistakes or have been wise with your money, walking your kids through how you made your financial decisions and how they ultimately affected you will make the principles real, rather than keep them so abstract. (See also: Financial Basics Every New Grad Should Know)
6. Saving for retirement
It can be hard for people in their late teens and 20s to think about saving for retirement, because it all feels so far away. But it’s critical you talk with your adult children about how much they may need for retirement, and walk through some compound interest calculations with them so they see the benefit of saving early. Make sure they understand the basics of an IRA and 401(k), as well as what it means to be fully vested and take advantage of an employer match. (See also: Basic Intro to Retirement Funds)
7. Your financial plan
As your kids get older, they also need to know about your financial plan, before they find themselves trying to figure it out without you. This can be an especially difficult conversation to have, because on top of talking about money, you’re also talking about serious injury, illness, or death.
Still, it’s important for your kids to know what types of insurance you have, because knowing whether you have long-term care coverage, for instance, may help them make better decisions later on. Talk to them, too, about how you plan to divide up your estate. This can keep conflicts to a minimum after you are gone, so they can grieve instead of fight. (See also: The Fair Way to Split Up Your Family’s Estate)
If one of your adult children is the executor of your will, make sure they understand that responsibility and that they have all the relevant information. They should have access to the location of your accounts, the account numbers, and any identification information, as well as contact information for your lawyer. You can write all of this out for them so they can simply file it away until they need it.
Talking about money can be hard, but it’s also important. Speaking with your adult children about these topics will ensure they have a better chance at a financially healthy life.