Parents Are Turning Their Kids Into Spenders

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's not exactly a state secret that kids look to their parents for money, starting with allowances when they're young and sometimes escalating to loans when they're older.

But kids want more from their parents than just cash. They want financial guidance, too, and they count on their parents as mentors on the subject.

T. Rowe Price ( TROW) took a long look at the issue of kids and finances with its Parents, Kids and Money Survey.

"Nearly three-fourths (73%) of parents are having regular conversations with their kids about money," the survey says. "Interestingly, kids think the money conversations are taking place less often than parents. Parents also report that their parents (now grandparents) had fewer money conversations with them when they were kids, but 59% of these parents agree that their parents did a good job teaching them about money matters."

But there is a caveat to those figures, and it's fairly big one.

The conversations revolve around what T. Rowe Price calls "short-term" money topics such as back-to-school shopping, rather than focusing on long-term financial topics kids really need to learn, such as how to create a family budget and how to save and invest money.

That's helping turn U.S. kids into spenders, and not savers. The study points out that 63% of children save for short-term goals and are more likely to spend their cash immediately on products they weren't even saving for in the first place.

Those conversations between parents and kids aren't helping America's youth adopt a healthy long-term view on savings and investing. According to T. Rowe Price, only 21% of U.S. kids believe the best way to save $1 million is through investing in stocks and bonds.

If that's not a shocker, try this: The survey says 24% of American kids believe the best way to save $1 million is by becoming famous.

That's not a recipe for success.

What parents need to do, T. Rowe Price says, is to figure out creative ways to teach their kids about money with clarity and common sense.

One idea is to plug kids into online games or mobile phone apps that teach them about money, and specifically about savings and spending. T. Rowe Price offers an online program called that covers that same ground.

T. Rowe Price also advises taking the following steps to close that "cash communication" gap between parents and kids:
  • Set goals: Talking about saving for a summer vacation is a good place to start, but parents also need to explain the importance of setting long-term goals such as saving for a car, college, or even retirement.
  • Leverage everyday "money situations": Interactions involving money, whether it's using coupons at the grocery store, balancing a checkbook or comparison shopping for a new television, are opportunities to teach kids valuable money lessons.
  • Lead by example: The survey revealed that 95% of kids say they have learned the most about saving and spending money from their parents. When parents act as good financial role models, kids have a better chance of learning the right lessons.

The survey emphasizes that while kids do value cash allowances and other financial gifts from parents and grandparents, they do want to learn about money, too.

"Kids look to their parents as financial role models, and for that reason parents need to not only have frequent discussions with their kids about money, but also lead by example," says Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, and a father of three children. "Parents could do better on two fronts: They need to share financial concepts with their kids like goal setting and smart saving, as well as prepare their own finances for the long term." It's up to parents to bring those lessons out of the shadows and into the light, and show their kids how money works, and how to best build a lifelong savings and wealth creation program.

Do that and watch your children thrive in the financial side of their lives for the rest of their lives.

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