I remember my wife telling me a story of a woman who always cut off the ends of her Sunday roast before cooking it. It was what she observed her mother doing and what she planned to teach her daughters as they grew up. One day she asked her mother why she cut the ends off the roast? Was it to make the meat tender? Was it to allow the seasoning to seep in? Nope, her mother cut off the ends of the roast, because her roasting pan was too small.
Our behavior with money may be a result of what we see or think we see family or friends doing with their money, but it may not be right. As a result, we may be setting ourselves and the next generation up for financial difficulties instead of financial freedom. Most children will follow the example set by their parents or grandparents before they will follow their advice.
With all the financial resources, programs, companies, apps, advisors and more available today to help educate and guide Americans toward financial freedom, why is it that we are falling further behind financially as a nation?
Could it be that the lack of financial education in our country has left Americans without the knowledge of how money really works and how to use it to their advantage? Could it be that families are passing on bad financial habits and advice simply because that is what was passed on to them?
"I could argue that financial literacy may be the most important thing we can teach right now to change the course of our country" said Cody Foster, co-founder of Advisors Excel. "Debt is at record highs, there has been a massive shift from pensions to forcing people to manage their own retirement, and, as a general public, we are ill-equipped to make wise decisions."
Parents and grandparents need to get their own money situation on track. They need to get educated on how money really works and the difference between good debt and bad debt. They need to understand the rule of 72 -- the way of predicting the number of years it will take an investment of yours to double (determined by dividing 72 by the interest rate). As parents and grandparents we need to stand tall with our money and set a solid example with money in order to leave a legacy.
Brett King, managing/founding partner of Elite Financial Associates, says, "It's vitally important to teach children about money so they understand the concept of running a household, paying bills and saving for emergencies before they venture off on their own. This will most likely prevent them from racking up credit card bills and taking on too much debt, because they didn't understand the principles of living within their means."
"There is no rule of thumb as to what age parents or grandparents should begin teaching children about money," King added. "It just depends on each child's intellectual capacity to learn and absorb this type of information. I would suggest, though, beginning as soon as you feel your child or grandchild would be able to comprehend such information. This way you'll have more time for those lessons to sink in before they are off on their own."
Many children who go off to college have no idea how to manage money, or maintain budget, and as a result, they may create a financial bind for themselves.
"The same theory holds true for what age children should be taught to begin saving money," King said. "Even small amounts at a time will create good savings habits that usually continue into the future."
It is never too late to start learning about how to be better with money. For some, it may be imperative to learn about getting out of debt or figuring out how to consistently save money. For others, they may be looking for a way to produce income or get a better return on their money. This can all be accomplished by getting educated in the area you most want to understand and finding a good financial planner and vehicle.
"Parents and grandparents should be encouraged to have conversations with their kids," Foster said. "Several advisors I know give their clients books for teaching kids about money. Just like the advisors primary job is to create a conversation and help educate their clients, they can encourage their clients to do the same thing with their kids. And, as those kids get older, start to include them in the process."
One of the best ways to help your kids, teens or even adult children with money is to be open with them about your own money successes and failures. Most of my personal money failures prodded me to get educated, and that led to my money successes. Having an open dialogue immediately promotes financial literacy, because you remove the taboo America has about discussing money.
To stack the deck in your children's favor, parents and grandparents need to seek out solid financial tools and vehicles for growing and preserving their money, not only for themselves, but for future generations. That being said, more important than the money you could pass along is the knowledge of how to handle money. Part of a solid legacy will be having your children and grandchildren educated on how to become financially independent.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor.