How to Teach Your Grandkids About Money

by Gary Foreman

Teach Your Grandkids about Money photo

You have a lifetime of money knowledge. Why not pass on what you’ve learned about money with your grandkids? Here’s how you can share your money smarts in their digital world.

You’ve spent a lifetime gaining personal finance knowledge (sometimes very expensive knowledge!), and you’d love to teach your grandkids about money. But in an age of apps and hashtags, is it really possible to share your money knowledge with your grands?

To help us answer that question, we spoke with Jennipher Lommen. Ms. Lommen is a Certified Financial Planner™ and owner of Wildflower Financial, a fee-only financial planning firm in Santa Cruz, CA. She enjoys helping people organize their financial lives and make wise decisions around money.

Q: In an age where technology is changing the way we handle money, is it still possible for the over 50 crowd to teach their grandkids valuable money concepts? Or has technology made their knowledge outdated?

Ms. Lommen: Technology has certainly changed the way we do many things, including handling our finances. It is tricky to teach someone to balance a checkbook when they have never needed to write a check before.

On the other hand, the fundamental concepts of financial literacy have not changed much. Parents and grandparents can absolutely help young people to understand the importance of living within one’s means, avoiding negative debt patterns, and saving for long term goals.

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Q: Is teaching more a matter of sitting down for a talk or just demonstrating good finances by your lifestyle? Or is it a little bit of both?

Ms. Lommen: I think it takes both. Demonstrating good financial habits is important, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts, young people really do need some direct guidance. Coming right out of high school or college and getting a first job can present a variety of important decisions that many people are simply unprepared to handle. It is one thing to know from watching your parents be good savers that you want to do the same. It is entirely another thing to be faced with opening a retirement account and deciding on how to invest your savings.

I had this experience with my daughter recently. She has a new teaching job and asked for help with her 403(b). I started rattling off vocabulary to her and she made me stop and go way back to the beginning. What is a stock? What is a bond? Mutual fund? Annuity? Same thing goes for helping kids understand basic budgeting. What are fixed versus variable versus discretionary expenses and how do they determine what they can really afford when it comes to rent, car payments, and debt, for example. All this becomes much more real for young adults when they first set out on their own.

Q: Are there certain traits or skills that grandparents are in a better position than parents to share with their grands?

Ms. Lommen: This depends on the personalities and relationships of the people involved. Grandparents are going to be able to give a different perspective on many things than parents, which can be a nice way to offer advice without judgment. Sometimes, parents are still too attached to outcomes when it comes to their own children’s lives, creating tension on the receiving end. At the same time, grandparents may be less familiar with the new sorts of financial challenges facing young adults today. Parents may be better positioned in some situations to offer advice based on more recent experience.

Q: Most readers who are 50+ were raised in a time when more and more debt instruments were available to them. What should we be teaching our grands about debt?

Ms. Lommen: Each generation faces its own challenges when it comes to debt. As I said earlier, teaching the fundamentals about the wise use of debt never goes out of style.

One big difference I see in my practice is that the millennial generation has had to take on a much higher level of student debt than their parents or grandparents in order to achieve the advanced degrees required for today’s higher paying job market. This incredibly high level of debt early on in adult life has a ripple effect on just about every aspect of life, including where to live, what sort of job to take, when to start a family, when to buy a home, and when to retire. It is very important to teach both parents of kids heading to college and college students themselves about all of their options before they become mired under a mountain of debt.

Q: Is it advisable to share your biggest financial mistake with your grandchildren?

Ms. Lommen: I don’t have grandchildren yet, but I can speak to this as a parent. I would answer yes! Both of my parents have made some big financial mistakes in their lives and I have seen my own children learn a great deal from learning about those mistakes from their grandparents. These stories have a lasting impact and help to guide young people in the right direction. Having someone you look up to share their own mistakes with you is also very humanizing and can help ease the pressure as a young person trying to navigate a very difficult world of financial decisions and choices.

Q: When we’re young, it’s hard to picture growing older, but our perspectives change as we age. What can we teach our grandchildren about money that only age can teach us?

Ms. Lommen: This is always the dilemma with trying to teach young people, especially teenagers! They think they know everything already and that they will never be old. I admire this quality because I think it helps young people be brave and innovative. Obviously, there are also downsides to this youthful attitude.

I think there is a right time for all lessons. When children are young, this is a great time to teach good habits and help them understand the value of work, saving, sharing and giving. During the more challenging teen years, keeping lines of communication open is vital and it is a great time to encourage kids to have “skin in the game,” taking on part-time work to pay for their own car or at least their own auto insurance, gas, etc. As teens turn into young adults and the world of work and money become “real,” they will most likely be eager to learn from both parents and grandparents about more complex financial skills and concepts.

Reviewed January 2021

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. You can read Gary's full bio here. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews.

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Your Email:

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Your Email:

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