PAREN(T)HESIS — Money Talks

August 1, 2017

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Last month, I shared thoughts around talking with kids about how babies are made.

Next up, money, another subject that is sometimes taboo. More specifically, I’m thinking about kids knowing the basics of personal finances.

Many grade schoolers have to pause and think to remember how much a quarter is worth. Ask them to guess how much is paid for rent or a mortgage, and they may throw out what they consider a really high number, such as $100. As they get older, they might grasp these values and concepts but know little about using a budget to help prepare for the future. Older children should learn things like how credit works and even compound interest.

While it’s comforting to keep money concerns in the realm of adults, eventually kids will need to handle money without an adult over their shoulder. I remember my first purchases without a parent were 10 or 25 cent candy at a store near our school. (Peach was my flavor of choice.) Today kids might buy a cookie at a coffee shop or use a vending machine without their parents, or even rent a movie or juice up an online game.

It’s reasonable to think that they will make better decisions, both large and small, if they have been given some guidance.

On a small scale, I try to show our daughter receipts for things like groceries and have her look at the total so she gets a grasp of the cost of food. On a Target or Walgreens receipt, I point out the line indicating tax.

To help her become comfortable with money and to have a little independence, we’ve started to let her make some small purchases on her own, such as muffins at a coffee shop or farmers market.

Wisconsin legislators are considering requiring public schools to include financial literacy for kids from kindergartners to high school seniors. Like the discussions over the birds and the bees, in my mind financial discussions should start at home and be reinforced at school. This helps make sure a family’s culture is respected while all kids get the basics. It helps society at large when they graduate with a solid knowledge of financial topics.

The Wisconsin Assembly passed the Financial Literacy bill in late June with no opposition. According to an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the State Senate may consider the bill this fall.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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