Moms Take the Lead in Teaching Kids to be Financially Savvy

According to a recent survey sponsored by investment company, Capital Group, large numbers of American adults say they wish someone would have shared advice with them about saving for retirement and retirement accounts when they were children or young adults. Forty-five percent of women and 33% of men say they wish they had learned earlier about saving for retirement and 401(k) tips. Other popular topics included debt, credit cards and living within your means, as well as general knowledge about the stock market and how investing works.

The survey also revealed that mothers are more likely than fathers to talk with their children about a number of financial topics. Indeed, women aren’t just answering most of the money questions in American homes, they’re the ones starting conversations with their children.

According to the survey, mothers were more likely than fathers to talk to their children about the importance of good credit, where 76 percent of mothers had started the conversation versus 62 percent of fathers. Women also led men in the household in discussions about the importance of saving early (70 percent of mothers versus 64 percent of fathers), retirement preparation (69 percent of mothers versus 65 percent of fathers) and paying down debt (50 percent of mothers versus 42 percent of fathers).

However, despite mothers broaching subjects of prudent personal financial planning more often with children, fathers still remain the primary investment decision-makers in their household; in the survey, 79 percent of fathers reported being the primary household investor versus 51 percent of mothers.

Furthermore, while most parents would acknowledge the need for financial education to begin in the home, 69 percent rate themselves as only “somewhat” successful in teaching their kids about money. Unfortunately many schools do not provide in-depth financial education, which places much of the onus on parents to teach the next generation of investors to be financially savvy.

It’s encouraging to see that moms appear to be taking charge of financial education—but are they teaching the right lessons? When asked to select the most valuable pieces of wisdom to share with children about money, parents are most likely to recommend the following:

  1. Live within your means. More than half of parents (56%) selected this piece of advice as one of their top three recommendations for a child, teen or young adult.
  2. Start saving early and regularly. Forty-three percent prioritize early saving behavior as a key for a good start in life, and this is closely aligned with the 46% who say young people should save regularly each month and with every paycheck (e.g., through their employer's retirement plan).
  3. Take advantage of your employer's 401(k) match. Thirty-three percent ranked this among their top three pieces of wisdom, though boomers (45%) are much more likely than millennials (23%) to make this recommendation.
  4. Don't carry a credit card balance and manage credit effectively. This was strong advice for 28% of parents, but boomers were again significantly more likely than millennials to select this (39% versus 19%).
  5. Create a budget based on percentage of income. About one-in-five adults (21%) of all generations chose this as one of their top financial lessons for children.

Capital Group's survey was conducted by APCO Insight during April 2018 among 1,202 American adults who had some investment decision-making responsibility for their families.