Children and Money

How to Start the Money Conversation with Your Kids

How To Start Money Conversations with Kids | www.TheHeavyPurse.comI have always encouraged parents to start talking to their kids about money immediately. The sooner those conversations begin, the easier it will be for you to help shape your children’s money habits and beliefs. My father waited until I was 13, which may seem fairly young, but even then he still had to help me overcome some money beliefs that held me back. Because I tend to be analytical and like having a plan or a roadmap, I also understand why some parents have a hard time just jumping into these conversations too.

While most money conversations are explaining the things you want your kids to emulate as you do them, you may still feel a bit lost. In those situations, I often find it’s because your own financial literacy and confidence is low. Some parents want to wait until they feel better prepared, but I firmly believe you can learn to be financially literate together, although there is one step you should complete prior to starting these conversations with your kids.

Examine Your Own Money Beliefs and Habits

It’s important that you take some time to review how you think about money and what you want to teach. Most importantly, you need to make sure those two are in alignment. Your kids will notice if they are not.

Ask yourself:

Be absolutely honest with yourself when answering these questions. The “right” answer is obvious, but you’re not being graded and no one else is going to see your answers. Be truthful with how money makes you feel and act. Do not feel ashamed if you discover that your money habits and beliefs need some work. That is okay and common. Most adults do have money hang-ups. Now you know what they are, so you can work on changing them. Everyone benefits from you doing this.

If you view money through fearful eyes, how do you want to see it instead? What would you need to do to make that change? Layout the changes you need to make to shift your money mindset and habits and start implementing.

As critical as this step is, I also don’t think you should wait until you have “fixed” your money habits and beliefs. You can still talk to your kids about money and share with them how you’re changing your habits and beliefs too.

3 Ways to Start Money Talks with Your Kids

The beginning of a conversation is always the hardest, right? We want to ease into it and make it seem natural, so no one is uncomfortable. You may have a few awkward silences and the occasional “ummm” but once you find your rhythm, these money talks with your kids become second nature. I’ve put together some ideas to help you start these conversations and make them fun. Soon money conversations will be a normal part of your every day routine, just as it is my home.

Set a Family Save Goal

This is a must. First, it always good to have the family working towards a common goal together. Additionally, you teach your kids to give money purpose and have a better answer than “no, we can’t afford it” when they want something. Involve your children as much as possible. Ideally, they should help determine what the family save goal should be (or at least give them a few choices to choose from) and understand how much money needs to be saved. You can keep a running tally to keep it front and center for the kids.

One of the many great things about having a family goal is that it shows your kids that you are being purposeful with your money. We love to travel so our family save goal is typically a family vacation. And what we enjoy the most is experiencing new cultures and activities, so when we travel our top priority is to try new things. So we invest our money in tours and exploring, rather than the most expensive room at our hotel. We don’t hide this from Lauren and Taylor. They know we spend our money on what we value and save on the things that mean less to us. They also know because we love big trips, like our Disney Cruise, that we are also willing to save for two years too to make vacation dreams come true.

Create a Save, Spend and Share Vision Board and Jars

Young or old, kids always want things. I don’t want my girls to feel bad because they want something, because that is normal and they shouldn’t feel ashamed by their wants. What I do want is for them to understand where “wants” fit within their priorities. Kids are very visual by nature so have them create vision boards of the things they want to save, spend and share.

Revisit the board often to talk about their goals. Their goals may change throughout the year, which is again normal. This gives you the opportunity to help them refine what they truly want because goals will always continue to evolve. While you don’t want to be overly wishy washy with your goals (be forewarned with younger kids they do tend to change their mind frequently) but goals are not etched in stone. If a goal no longer motivates you, it is very hard to save for something you don’t wait, nor does it prevent mindless spending. It’s important your goals truly represent what you want.

Bonus Tip: These vision boards and discussions also help Mom and Dad know what matters to their kids too. So when they do get those dreaded “I wants” you are armed with both the family goal and their personal goals to use as a counter balance. Now your children have something to weigh their wants against.

Read The Lemonade Stand at Bedtime

The reason I wrote The Heavy Purse and The Lemonade Stand was to help parents start the money conversation with their kids. I knew so many parents didn’t know where to begin and a bedtime story was a fun way to start the conversation. It’s non-threatening and it makes it easier for your kids to get excited about setting their own save, spend and share goals when they see their favorite book characters do it joyfully.

If you click on The Lemonade Stand cover below, you will be able to take a sneak peek at the book. And don’t forget, you can save $3 off The Lemonade Stand with the coupon code TOUR3114 through July 31, 2014.

How did you start the conversation with your kids?


Leave a Comment


  1. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Shannon, I'm going to share this post with my friends who recently had kids. What an excellent introduction to family money talks. I'm so thankful for your blog and the help it provides for families.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Thank you so much for your kind words and support, Natalie. I appreciate them and everything you do too! I hope your friends follow my advice and implement family money talks. They really do make a huge difference.
  2. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I like that you so want to make money a family discussion. I wish that had happened around my dinner table as a kid. But that was the 1960's and money was a subject left to discussion by the parents. I wonder how different my money perspective could have been?
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      It's sad to say but even today, money remains a taboo topic in homes. I think it's so important that we talk about money as family, especially how we use our family money. I have no doubt it would have changed your money perspective, because I know it has not only affected the girls, but all of us.
  3. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I love the idea of creating a family save goal. My son recently asked us about taking a trip to Italy and of course he wants to go ASAP. We sat down and discussed, getting his input along the way, the estimated costs for the trip. Then we discussed how much we could save toward this goal every month and came up with the timeline for when we could make the trip. He now also knows that if we want to get there faster, we can make other changes and sacrifices because we have this trip as a family goal.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Love it, Shannon! Our girls love to travel as much as Mom and Dad do (thankfully) and I find that involving them in the vacation process makes a huge difference. They understand what we are working towards and the sacrifices and choices we make to reach our vacation goals. It's great lesson for our kids to learn.
  4. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    The family save goals and creating a vision board - those are the best ideas! I have my own personal "dream board" for things I want to do once the debts are gone and I have some money saved up in the bank. These things help keep me motivated when things get tough and when I want to "splurge" on unnecessary things.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Thanks, Kayla! We are such visual people and I find vision boards to be so motivating. And kids just like making them too. But I think when you have something tangible to show to others and see every day, it really makes a difference and makes it seem possible. They really do help you refrain from those little "splurges" too!
  5. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Great ideas on how to start money conversation with kids...I think that's probably one of the areas I might have trouble with in the future. Having a family goal and a vision board is a great way for kids to be reminded of the goal and what steps need to be taken to achieve that goal. You're right that kids are very visual and seeing the board and jar there is much better than just talking about it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      The family save goal and vision boards are such an easy way to introduce kids to money in a fun way. They are learning without even realizing it. And I bet it will be easier than you think too, Andrew. Baby LRC will grow up hearing about money, so by the time he really comprehends, money will be a comfortable topic for everyone.
  6. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I love the vision board idea!! It's a creative way to express your goals, and by spending some time on it, it should really "stick" in their memories, from kids to adults. I for sure plan to read The Lemonade Stand to my soon-to-be little one, right along with "Good Night Moon" and other childhood faves. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Awwww … thanks, Anna! I hope your little one grows up loving The Lemonade Stand along with all the classics. :) Kids love art projects and creating one of all the things they love is something they want to do. And it is such an opportunity for so many good conversations – from helping them really understand what they love, how to prioritize, how the choices they make affect their ability to reach goals.
  7. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Being a parent, I often sit at the dinner table talking to my boys about money issues. It’s kind of funny that I teach adults about money but when it comes to my own kids, I find it difficult to know the best way to teach them about personal finance.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Sometimes it's easier to talk to others about money than our own kids. :) But it sounds to me that you're on the right path by making money a comfortable dinner conversation. It's how we started too. We would talk about family save goal to keep the girls excited. Then whenever they got the "I wants" we would remind them of our family goal to reengage their excitement and they would agree that our trip was more important.
  8. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Do you have a scarcity or an abundant money mindset? I think this is a huge one. I think the dialog parents use around their kids could seriously affect how they view not just money, but about life in general. It's a first cousin of the victim mentality.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      I agree, Tonya! We all want (hopefully) an abundant mindset, yet so many people have a scarcity mindset, seeing only what they lack. Some don't even realize they do this. And you're right - it does filter beyond money into all aspects of life.
  9. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Hi Shannon,

    Now that my kids are older it's easier to talk about money with them. And I think they understand the concept and I owe it to your great advice :).

    We're saving up for a down payment on a new house and they are even putting in their money to help us...the family goal is to move in a by next August.

    Thanks for sharing these suggestions. Definitely passing it along! Happy Mondayy
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Awwww… thanks Corina! I'm glad may advice has been helpful and kudos to you for having these conversations with your teens. I know it's made a huge difference and I love that your kids are so involved with the family goal that they are even contributing to it. That's is fantastic!
  10. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I really like the idea of a vision board and jars Shannon. It is the responsibility of parents to do what they can to help their children become better savvy with money. Your ideas are good ways to show it can be fun to learn about money.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, July 28th, 2014
      Thanks, Kassandra! I know some people find money boring or complicated, but it really doesn't need to be that way. Kids can learn about money and have fun too!
  11. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I think this would be an absolute hit with kids -> "Create a Save, Spend and Share Vision Board and Jars." I know growing up I got really excited about savings goals and if my parents had built off that energy who knows what my young, developing, entrepreneurial mind would have come up with ;)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, July 31st, 2014
      Kids are so visual by nature and seeing the things they want to save, spend and share their money with and on is very motivating and exciting to them. It does help them see possibilities and constantly reminds them that they are working towards what they REALLY want. It makes it much easier for them to not get sidetracked by other things.
  12. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    Shannon you really make some easy to follow and practice steps to allow good money conversation to start in a household. How to reach the parents who really need to hear this is something I've been thinking about lately.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, July 31st, 2014
      Thanks, Deb! I appreciate your kind words. Reaching parents who need this information is something that always weighs on my mind. It's sad because children and money is not on the minds of most parents and yet every single child will grow up to handle money. Knowing how to make good decisions with their money is critical to their financial well-being. Parents need to teach their kids how to do this and most aren't unfortunately.
  13. Monday, July 28th, 2014
    I guess we don't really know if we did it right until they are grown and making their own decisions, but I always want to make any topic open and available at whatever age it comes up. Obviously, I'm not going to start talking about how much a semester of college tuition costs at this age, but I can talk about how it's important to save money now for things we want in the future. Your book is a great reference point if you need a way to get started.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, July 31st, 2014
      Thanks for the book shout-out. It's definitely why I wrote the books. I know for some parents this is such new terriorty that it's scary for them. And we tend to procrastinate doing the things that scare us. But a bedtime story makes it a lot easier to start the conversation. It's true we don't fully know how much our children take to heart until they leave home, but I am really pleased by how much influence I've had on the girls thus far. And I know your conversations with your daughter had already had an impact on how she looks at money too.
  14. Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
    I love "save, spend, share." My kids loved that part in your book!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, July 31st, 2014
      Awwww… that makes me so happy to hear! Kids really like to save, spend and share and sometimes it surprises parents that just by helping kids give money purpose, it dramatically reduces the "I wants".
  15. Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
    I love your ideas and blog. If you wait until you are over certain money issues of yourself you wait forever. Money is something we have to constantly manage regardless of how much of it we have. I started with my daughter from the moment she could understand what money is. She was saving for holiday ice cream money and managing it from 6 years old. We still have holiday ice cream money tradition ten years after. Children can be amazing in understanding the issues. I remember a time she had to choose between a book and chocolate at about 9 years old and she willingly gave up on chocolate in favor of the book. You need to teach them importance of money, spending, saving and charity as early as they can understand. In my opinion, the best way is to teach them in little doses and strengthen the ideas by being a good example.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, July 31st, 2014
      Love it, Caroline! You've done an amazing job with your daughter and it's clear she gets it. Money is finite and we have to learn how to make smart choices with our money. I love that she chose a book over chocolate and I bet she didn't even complain. I find when the girls have clear choices and follow their hearts, they don't feel deprived because they can't have everything. They got want they really wanted and that's what makes them happy. ANd I agree being a good role model is so important and one of the best ways to teach our children. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your kind words. :)
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan