Talking to your children about money is something every parent should do. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know where to start. The ins and outs of personal finance can be hard enough for adults to fully understand – and it’s even tougher to pass on that knowledge to children.
LifeTuner.org, a division of the AARP, is dedicated to fostering financial conversations between children and parents, through tools to help users eliminate credit-card debt, budget for a new home and save for retirement. We spoke with Daniel McCullough, LifeTuner’s social media manager, on the importance of educating young people on their finances, and the various financial obstacles young people face.
Why is the AARP interested in educating young people on their finances?
LifeTuner.org is an expert-backed online community dedicated to inspiring young adults to explore the essentials of money: how to earn it, use it and save it to live a better life. LifeTuner offers interactive features and tools designed to help visitors set goals, budget wisely, manage debt and save for the future.
Through research and ongoing surveys to assist its members, AARP found that its members were having to delay their retirement because they were still supporting their adult-aged children financially. In an effort to help members, it launched LifeTuner.org to help educate the adult-aged children and grandchildren about managing money.
What are some of the most common financial mistakes you see young people making?
Just not saving, and continuing to spend on credit. Automatically setting aside something small, like $19 per week, can go a long way towards easing your state of mind when you go through a life hiccup, since that adds up to a $1000 cushion over the course of a year.
Financial mistakes are compounded by thinking you’re alone, or that it’s somehow taboo to talk about them. It’s the number one concern on young adults’ minds. If you’re trying to make key life decisions – and right now, Gen-Y is coming up or already in that time frame – and you’re not talking to your peers, parents or mentors, chances are that you’re going to make bad calls that will hurt you financially.
Dealing with your finances at a young age can feel overwhelming. What are some helpful ways parents can get involved with their children’s finances without actually giving them money or creating a situation that causes them to be overly dependent?
LifeTuner is a strong proponent of fostering conversation. The first thing parents can do is have a conversation, sharing the things they wish they’d known about money when they were younger. Young adults need to have an idea of what the important-if-mundane things realistically cost – things like insurance, cars, student loans/debt and taxes – in order to have a handle on how much of the first real paycheck will go towards those things, and what will be left over. The LifeTuner team is just about to release an app that puts a lot of emphasis on calculating these hidden costs of living, so both parties know what kind of timeline and goals are appropriate for the push towards independence.
There seem to be changes happening every day in the personal finance industry. What are some changes you’d like to see in 2012?
More discussion about personal finance, both online and in person. It seems that a lot of people didn’t realize what poor financial shape they were in until the recession hit. This cycle shouldn’t repeat itself; hopefully, money will remain a part of popular dialogue, not in the doom-and-gloom sense, but in an always-have-it-on-your-mind kind of way. After all, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
What online resources – websites, tools, applications, blogs – would you recommend to young people trying to make the most of their money?
Some of the ingenuity displayed at FinCon11 is really promising. The emphasis seems to be on increasing ease and encouraging good behaviors, and it looks like Budgetable and SaveUp will help out on these fronts, with Budgetable looking to make budgeting a no-brainer, and SaveUp giving users the chance to win prizes for saving money instead of spending it. Mint is a great tool for budgeting, tracking spending, and setting goals that involves zero effort and uses a lot of great visualizations for those of us who are less spreadsheet-inclined. The landscape is very promising.
What advice would you have for a young person taking their first major financial steps? What piece of financial advice do you wish someone had given you when you were younger?