Editorial Policy

Did Your Parents Make Money a Taboo Subject?

Kristin McGrath

April 13, 2012

When I was growing up, my mother paid the bills every Sunday. She’d sit at her desk with the family’s checkbook for a few hours, transforming a mess of papers with numbers on them into a neat pile of sealed envelopes ready for the mailbox.
As kids tend to do, I’d bug her with questions.
“What are you doing?” I’d start with.
“Paying the bills,” she’d respond.
“Because we have to pay for the house, keep it warm and keep the lights on,” she’d explain. “If the house company and the electric company don’t get the money on time, we could be in trouble.”
Money stressed me out even then, so, sometimes I’d ask her if we had enough money to pay all those bills. And she would explain that, yes, we did, because she paid the bills before spending money on other things.
It was a simple, reassuring message, repeated whenever I asked. Yet it’s a message some kids might not be getting, according to investment management firm T. Rowe Price’s fourth annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey.
The researchers interviewed parents, as well as children between the ages of 8 and 14. They found that children are curious about money — they want to learn about saving it and earning it. Yet about one-fourth of parents say they talk about these simple topics “not very often” or “almost never.”
The survey also found that it’s hard to hide financial stress from kids. One-third of the children surveyed said they knew their parents were having money-related disagreements. Yet that doesn’t stop parents from trying to spare their kids from their financial difficulties. More than 40 percent say they do not tell their children that they’re worried about money, while nearly 30 percent say they hide their families’ true financial situations from their kids.
On the other hand, parents don’t have a problem telling their kids the family can’t afford something — just 17 percent admitted to telling their kids they could afford something when they really couldn’t. Parents are also becoming more open to talking with their kids about money. Forty-six percent said they were having more money conversations with their children than they were last year.
Is money a taboo subject in your household? Did your parents talk to you about money? The only off-limits topic in my household while I was growing up was my dad’s salary — although that didn’t stop my sister and me from trying to trick him into revealing it.
With healthy financial upbringings in mind, here are some of the best money blog posts of the week:
Frugal Dad shares some tips on making the family summer vacation affordable.
PT Money has some advice for stay-at-home parents.
Five Cent Nickel sings the praises of having Depression-era parents.
The Frugal Girl fesses up to the amount of food her family wasted this week.
Sense to Save reveals her new grocery shopping strategy.
The Simple Dollar proves that frugal families are not boring families.