The question of how much – and how – to talk to kids about family finances often stymies even the most dedicated parents.
While kids don’t necessarily need to know exactly how much money you make, they do need to know how the world works. Children, as they grow, need to learn what money means, how much it costs to buy things, and how the money to buy things is earned.
But what if they seem to be trying to figure out who’s the primary breadwinner?
Also read: Are You in a Spender / Saver Relationship?>
Does It Matter Which Parent Makes More?
It’s a tricky question, and as with most such money queries, you should probably begin by trying to figure out why the child is asking. Why would it matter which parent makes more money?
Are they getting this from a meddling grandparent or brother-in-law? Or are they simply picking up on your own day-to-day cues?
Children learn as much through example as through instruction, and if one parent is perceived as being weaker financially without explanation, it’s going to be tough to convince any kid that this isn’t the way things are meant to be.
Also read: The 6 Most Important Money Lessons for Kids>
How Simple Economics Can Help
This search for financial equilibrium within the family is a key message in Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson’s book Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes, a clever read that tries to show how simple economics can help marriages and long-term partnerships survive.
Throughout history, marriages have been made for strategic alliances, economic gain, or familial ties. And, while that’s not why most people get married these days, every marriage or partnership is still its own little economy, a business of two with a finite number of resources that need to be allocated efficiently, they suggest.
Increasingly, Women Earn More Than Husbands
But the inputs to that equation have certainly changed. The number of women out-earning their husbands is rising, for instance, due to an increase in their education levels. And that’s something to celebrated, not hidden from your kids for fear of offending someone’s fragile ego.
Another lesson: 50/50 isn’t necessarily the best way to divide housework, they suggest. Most people want an egalitarian marriage, but Adam Smith famously noted that efficiency is maximized when workers specialize.
Split the chores by all means but don’t try to micro manage when it comes to money and actual hours worked. More importantly, weave this message into your family narrative when trying to explain to your children just who does what, in and out of the home.
Kids Have Trouble Putting Money In Perspective
Remember money is a source of mystery and, sometimes, worry to children. No matter how much either of you make, kids will still have trouble putting it in perspective. They don’t want all the details anyway – just a clearer idea of how it all comes together.
If income disparity is a sensitive area for you as a couple, look for a positive spin while still answering their questions.
If one parent is home taking care of the children, for instance, this question offers an opportunity to explain that his or her work is as vital as the labours that the parent at the office performs. This establishes them as a financial authority in the house regardless of where the money is coming from.
The key message: No matter how much money each parent makes, and how they make it, both contribute equally to the household when all is said and done.