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Talk to kids about jobs, money, experiences

You can have a positive impact on your child or grandchild by becoming a financial role model.

This does not require that you are wealthy or a successful investor. It simply requires that you talk honestly with your child or grandchild about your personal experiences with money and your values. Even if you have a teenager who rolls their eyes, I guarantee they will be listening.

You may not realize that you have wisdom to share, but your kids and grandkids need your advice. Getting along in the world today is far different than when we were children. The financial crisis of 2008 was a direct blow to many Americans, and young adults were especially traumatized. The financial industry is overrun with greed and fraud, and the devastation it caused in 2008 and early 2009 will likely occur again. Many people lost their homes and jobs during the 2008 crisis. The message many took from that crisis was that working hard, paying your bills, and saving money may no longer be enough to get by.

The COVID-19 crisis has also been financially devastating. Too many people have died, and the rest of us are frightened and confused. The uncertainty of our future seems overwhelming. Those of us who still have jobs (perhaps working remotely) feel tremendous gratitude, and we feel sadness for the many people who are hoping their jobs will eventually return. The fear that many will not be able to pay their rent or their mortgage, or keep food on their table for their families is real.

In these difficult times, many people have tried new things, which can become a sort of silver lining.

I encourage you to start talking about money with your kids and grandkids.

It is a win-win situation. First, your child or grandchild benefits by learning from the wisdom you have earned, and you will benefit by opening up the communication channels, which will deepen your relationship.

I recommend you discuss three topics.

Your Jobs: Talk about the jobs you have had during your career. Discuss what you liked about certain jobs and what you did not like about others. Explain to your child or grandchild that a job is far more than a paycheck. It is a matter of integrity, and finding a sense of purpose.

Ask your child or grandchild what careers they are planning to pursue. Talk about the benefits of education, and explain that it often opens more doors and opportunities. Take advantage of the many free, online classes available that can be completed during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Your Finances: Talk about your efforts to save and how you have invested during your life. Discussing mistakes you made is just as valuable as sharing what you did right. Do you wish you had saved more in your retirement plan at work, or that you had started automatic investments so you could have built a larger nest egg? Did you have bad experiences with some brokers or investments, but good results with others?

Our kids rarely learn about financial literacy in school, so talking with your kids or grandkids about money is essential. Talk about the dangers of credit cards and debt, and about buying your first home.

Your Values: This may be a bit more difficult, but I encourage you to think about what you value and then have a very candid discussion with your child or grandchild.

You can determine your values by simply finishing the sentence: “I value . . .” Possibilities include: I value honesty, family, integrity, kindness, hard work, and faith. Or, perhaps you value nature, art, music, creativity, pets, sports, or hobbies such as gardening.

I encourage you to become a financial role model for your children and grandchildren, and I hope you will go out on a limb to start these conversations. However, having these discussions with any friends or family members can be equally healthy and rewarding. If you would like, please email me the reactions that these conversations spark. I’d love to learn from you!

Donna Skeels Cygan, CFP, MBA, is the author of “The Joy of Financial Security.” She has been a fee-only financial planner in Albuquerque for over 20 years, and is the branch manager for the Mercer Advisors office in New Mexico. Contact her at