Ask Karen Gibbs

Veteran business correspondent Karen Gibbs answers your personal money questions and addresses current topics that affect YOUR finances on a daily basis. Karen is the financial expert in your corner--no question is too basic or too small. Karen boils down the issues simply: here's what you need to know, and here's what you need to do. Send your money questions to and post your comments below.



Having the Financial talk with Kids

Karen Gibbs

Karen, how do I talk to my son about money?  He knows I pay child support, but still thinks I have all the money in the world to spend on him and I feel guilty saying “no”.

- Steve, PG County

 Teenage Son
Steve, this is probably one of the most important discussions you can have with your child.  Laying the foundation for good money habits is one of the best gifts you can give your son.  Children make the association between money and the ability to buy stuff very early.  Teaching them the importance of money and credit as early as possible will put them on the path of financial capability.

Does he understand the connection between work and pay?  I’m big on paying children for age-appropriate chores instead of just handing out an allowance.  It’s never too early to teach the gospel of saving.  Money from the tooth fairy, birthday cash from Grandma, even the penny found on the street all offer opportunities to teach about saving, spending and giving.

Above all, be honest. Take time to explain your thought process and decisions.  Share the mistakes you may have made and the consequences of those mistakes. Connect the dots between behavior and costs – such as leaving the lights on and the electricity bill.  Grocery shop with a list and a limit and show him how you stick to both. 

When you’re together and a money issue arises, talk about it and brainstorm together for a solution. Create a joint action plan and get him invested in the goal. Establish the difference between a need and a want and use that a template going forward.  

Have you helped him establish his own savings account?  Is there something he wants and has the means to save for?  Does he understand what a budget is and why it’s important to have one and stick to it?  Talk about the concept of giving; it doesn’t always have to involve money.  Volunteer at a food bank; donate used clothes and toys as an introduction to philanthropy.  The common sense solutions you share will create smart spending habits and a culture of saving and giving. Above all, don’t feel guilty.  There are many free outings you can enjoy as a family.  Visit museums, go to the library and enjoy video games, e-books and community events.  Discuss how the money you save by taking advantage of free events can go toward family vacations, holiday gifts or a rainy day fund.

This is a great opportunity for you to pass along your knowledge.  The financial legacy you leave him will give him the tools to make smart choices and plan for most any financial curve ball that life may toss his way.

Good luck!

 - Karen

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