Kids and Money: Why Both Parents Must Be Engaged

Last Updated Apr 4, 2011 3:53 PM EDT

We probably didn't need a study to show that when it comes to teaching kids about money Dads are most interested in results while Moms are more concerned with the learning process. These findings hew to stereotypes about men and women that have existed since long before John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

Yet there is value in examining the roles of Dads and Moms in the financial education of children. If nothing else, the new TD Bank Financial Literacy Poll points up the value of having both parents -- or at least both a male and female role model -- involved in things like setting allowance and budgets and talking about credit cards and needs vs. wants.

Men and women often see the world of money through a different lens. The stereotypes suggest that men see money as a form of power and control while women see money more as a form of freedom and security. That's not always true, of course. The roles are reversed in many families and in still other families both husband and wife view money with a healthy blend of many different attributes.

No matter who looks through what lens, though, the kids will benefit from exposure to both Mom's and Dad's thinking. Hopefully, such exposure will help them mature with a balanced view of what money represents and the best ways to handle their personal finances. So don't punt this one to your spouse. The kids need you both. According to the TD Bank study:

· The shoe is on the wrong foot Dad feels more financially confident than Mom. But Mom handles most of the responsibility for teaching kids about money.

· There's a reason we don't budget More Dads feel the family doesn't need a budget, but more Moms say budgets are too complicated to bother with anyway. In all, 43% of families do not have a monthly budget of any kind.

· We teach differently Mom is much more likely to engage in practical money lessons like how to count money, comparison shop and save in a piggy bank. Dad is much more likely to set and manage an allowance and to create a savings goal.

· The kids get a late start Most Moms and Dads agree that they should be teaching their kids about money by age 12. But "most" is just 62%, and experts generally advise that simple money lessons should begin as young as age 6.

Photo courtesy Flickr user jason_burmeister
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  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.