Launching Kids in the New Normal

The end-of-summer rituals – back to school, returning to the office – are not happening the way we’re used to this fall. And while this new normal is making life challenging for everyone, it is especially hard for young people. As trying as this period may be, it also presents an opportunity to help your children become more resilient and responsible when it comes to money and finances.

How do you do that? We have learned by working with families that have stayed wealthy, healthy and wise over many generations that raising money-wise kids is a process. And that process is based on drawing young people into age-appropriate conversations and activities that link money to choices and values. The good thing about the kids being at home this fall is that we all have more time to start these conversations and activities.

The age of your children or grandchildren will of course determine what to talk about and how. Below are a few suggestions and resources to get you thinking about how to use some of the valuable new time you have to spend with them.

School age children (1st grade to junior high). Activities are important and you do not want to get too abstract. You could give a small allowance — in cash — for doing chores around the house. And then letting them decide what part of that allowance to spend, save, and share with others. That decision-making process fosters independence and responsibility early on.

Even if you do not believe in giving an allowance, you can teach kids to make decisions about new purchases. Instead of buying two things they want, tell them they can only have one and help them make the decision about which one. A key question: Is this something you need or something you want? Have them get into the habit of asking that about each new potential purchase. The “but mom, all my friends have/do this” rallying cry is a great time to explain what your family values are, as in “our family does not do that and here’s why.” Kids as young as five can be reasoned with in this way.

Teenagers. Teens can handle more responsibility and can benefit greatly from part-time work. Because of online classes or fewer after-school activities, they might have time to do a part-time job, even if it’s just a few hours a week. Because of social distancing, traditional options for teen part-time work might be more limited. The plus side is that Covid-19 limitations require teens to be more creative. Perhaps teens can do yard work for a neighbor. Or do online tutoring for younger kids in the neighborhood. Where there’s a will there’s a way. By helping them to brainstorm what a part-time job might look like, you can start to build on conversations about money, jobs, the economy, etc.

College students and recent graduates. If your college student is taking a gap year, talk to them about what they want to accomplish during the year and how this fits in with their plans for college and beyond. If they’re at home doing college online, you have time to start conversations about credit scores, potential careers, budgeting and other important life skills. For young people who are living at home or have moved back into the family home, now is the time to set some ground rules if you haven’t already about their finances and your expectations.

One good resource for ideas on how to start and develop family conversations about money and finances is Nathan Dungan’s website Nathan, a financial literacy expert, spoke to LNWM clients via two webinars this summer, aimed at different age groups.

View the webinar for children ages 5 to 15 here: Password EkDj4J2g
View the webinar for late-teens and young adults here : Password PknxtFR3

One of Nathan Dungan’s overarching themes is the corrosive effect of materialism and ways to counteract that. He thinks that general well-being for all of us, including young people, comes from learning to value experiences more than goods and also from giving to others — be it time, money or expertise.

Another good source for inspiration and information is the new NPR podcast about money for kids and their parents called millionsbazillions. This podcast launched in July 2020, with new episodes added weekly.