It takes a lot for children to become successful adults. Some expertise they get from others, like the academic and intellectual skills they learn in school. Many lessons come from parents: good values, for example, and an awareness of dangerous substances and behaviors.
But according to a recent survey, commissioned by Charles Schwab & Co. in connection with April's National Financial Literacy Month, too many parents are dropping the ball when it comes to teaching their kids about money and personal finance.
The survey, titled "Parents & Money," revealed that parents recognize the importance of the subject and worry that their teenagers don't have a lot of knowledge or experience with money management. But few are actually doing anything about it - and, frankly, many parents are not great role models for their children when it comes to personal finance. As some statistical highlights demonstrate, the survey reveals a serious disconnect between what parents believe and what they do.
- Ninety-three percent of those surveyed worry that their kids could make serious financial mistakes, like living beyond their means, failing to stick to a budget, or racking up too much credit card debt. However, just 49 percent have taught their kids about budgeting; only 29 percent have instructed their kids about credit card management.
- Seventy-one percent believe the best way for teens to learn about money is from guided, hands-on experience, but just 20 percent have seriously involved their teens with their family's budgeting and spending decisions.
- Seventy-five percent of those surveyed believe they are good financial role models; however, 28 percent of those surveyed are not currently saving for their own retirement or their kid's college education.
- Ninety-seven percent feel it's important to teach their kids to save and invest for retirement, but a mere 19 percent have taught them about investing for growth. Only 14 percent have explained to what a 401(k) plan is to their kids.
In short: Too many of today's parents are not preaching the virtues of saving and investing, and they're not practicing them either.
This concerns and frustrates me. In order to deal successfully with life's enormous financial challenges, people need to know how to manage money and live within their means. They must understand the pros and cons of credit and debt as well as the basics of investing. And they must plan for retirement, the biggest challenge for virtually every American.
Now here's the good news - today's teens want to learn about money and finance. In a survey of teens Schwab conducted in 2007, 60 percent indicated that learning about topics, such as budgeting, saving and investing, was a "top priority."
(An important interview) Saving the Net from the surveillance state (And Crony Media): Glenn Greenwald speaks up (Q&A) | Nick Sorrentino