Talkin’ Money with the Younger Generation

LNWM | Family and Finance | January 12, 2011

We talk a lot on this page about transitions people face in the second half of their lives. Young people go through major changes, too, of course.

Preparing for college, stepping into the real world on their own, figuring out a practical path which incorporates what they’re passionate about. Talk about major life disruptions. Then there’s money. The topic can be overwhelming for adults, let alone children. It affects nearly everything in your life whether you’re young, old or in-between. In getting from point A to point B, financial choices are involved. Planning for these eventualities creates better choices … and you’re never too young to start planning.

We have a long history of helping youths expand their financial literacy through the work we do with our clients and their children. Three years ago we formed our Kids and Money team at Laird Norton Wealth Management, which teaches financial workshops in the community. These hands-on sessions help teenagers learn about personal finance, investing and philanthropy. The number one thing we try to get across to youths in these workshops is that defining your personal values (what really matters to you) should drive your life goals and subsequently your daily financial decisions around spending, investing and charitable giving.

So there we were in the workshop last week teaching a session. Many of the students had the goal of getting a college degree. This derived from a variety of overlapping values -gaining knowledge, being educated, perseverance and having a career. The discussion then turned to saving for the new cash needs encountered in college. One college student shared that he had underestimated the costs of college, particularly for food. That triggered a high school senior to adjust her expectations for expenses. This may seem like a mundane moment, but you could see the light spreading across the room as other college-bound students thought further about their future, about the direction they would like their lives to go and the practicalities involved.

Yes, change is coming to their lives, as it is to ours. But opening discussions with youths about what really matters to them and conversing about pragmatic ways to achieve those ambitions we believe further readies them for curves in the road ahead.

While we believe our work is having a positive impact, we recognize that parental interaction is the greatest influence on youths’ financial habits. So, we heartily encourage ongoing dialog between parents and children on financial matters of the day. Every bit helps prepare the younger generation for the road ahead.