It’s only natural to want to help your kids with big ticket items to give them a good start in life—particularly in an era when tuition fees and house prices make higher education and owning a home less affordable than in previous generations.
But it can be difficult to know when to start turning off the tap. If you have an adult child who isn’t very good with money, then giving them funds with no strings attached might not be the best approach. You might end up enabling their behaviour rather than encouraging better money habits.
Regardless of whether your adult kids still live at home, have moved out or are boomeranging back and forth, it’s never too late to start encouraging positive money habits that will help them save, spend and invest more wisely.
Here are some things you could consider to change the money dynamic in your family:
- Start with the difficult conversation
If you’re determined to change the dynamic, it’s important to make this clear from the get-go. Sit down in a neutral venue and have an honest discussion. Explain what you’re going to do differently and why. It might not be an easy conversation. But in the long run it could help to clear the air and encourage a fresh approach. If your children are still living at home you’ve got the opportunity to set new ground rules like agreeing on a set amount out of their pay cheque every week for bed and board.
- Ditch the gifts
If you’ve found in the past that gifting money doesn’t solve their problems long term, then you could try another approach. One option could be loaning them money in instalments, with future amounts dependent on achieving specific goals like saving for their first home, perhaps through the First Home Super Saver Scheme. Another approach could be matching their savings when they reach a pre-determined amount.
- Focus on goals (short and long-term)
Talk to your children about their life goals. What do they want to do…travel the world? Buy a new car? Save up for a new home? Be open about money and talk about ways to save and invest. Short-term, an everyday bank account can help them set aside money to help them reach their goals.
You can also get your kids thinking long term about how their savings could be working better for them. These days if you want to invest, you don’t necessarily need a hefty starting figure or to fill in tedious reams of paperwork. From exchange traded funds to micro-investing platforms, there are plenty of online, digital ways to start small but think big.
- Focus on the basics like debt
Like many of us in Australia, your kids may not have received a great education about finance. So when they think about borrowing money, they may not have much of a grasp of the difference between ‘good debt’ and ‘bad debt’. It could be worth explaining the difference between borrowing money for a car and for a house—once you’ve paid it back, what are you left with? A car that may have shed 75% of its value or a house that’s probably improved its value and most importantly provided a home to retire in?
- Walk the walk
A budget needs to change as your life does. Take some time to check your budget against your bank statements and see whether they’re in sync. It’s also a good time to check if you can get a better deal on things you pay for regularly like your internet, phone and utilities.
It can also be interesting to step back and look at your overall patterns of spending. As Jacob Lew, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury said, “The budget is…an expression of our values and aspirations”. So, if the way you’re spending money doesn’t match your budget, you might want to make some changes.
© AMP Life Limited. First published May 2019
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