Grandparents can play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren by offering their time, love, advice and emotional — as well as financial — support.
Another way grandparents can make a lasting positive difference, of course, is to help guide grandkids in their personal financial education with simple, practical tips as well as continued conversations around money, thriftiness and even investing.
If you give a check or gift of money to your grandkids for every birthday or for major holidays, you already have a starting point for personal finance discussions. You’re also in the convenient position of outranking their parents in years of financial experience. And they might be more likely to listen to you than their primary caregivers.
Indeed, statistics show that your intergenerational insights will likely be welcome. According to a 2014 study released by the financial services company TIAA-CREF, 85 percent of 1,000 young adults surveyed said they’d be open to discussing finances with their grandparents. It’s worth noting, however, that only 8 percent of the 1,000 grandparents surveyed reported talking with their grandchildren about money.
Helping your grandkids learn how to be smart and responsible about money can give them knowledge that may benefit them over their entire lifetimes.
If you have wisdom to share, you might consider some of these avenues for passing on your personal finance legacy:
Take them to the bank.
Think of this as a financial field trip that addresses the basics of cash banking. Explain the difference between checking and savings. They’ll want to know what a bank is for, how an ATM works and where the money comes from. Encourage your grandkids to open checking accounts with money from gifts, small jobs or allowances. You could also open a savings account for your grandchild to illustrate the concepts of interest and compounding.
Talk about money.
Sharing your financial values on a regular basis is a wonderful way to pass on your good habits to your grandkids. How do you handle credit cards? What’s your savings plan? Why do you have investments? When you think a grandchild is old enough to understand, bring up these subjects and share how you think about money and how you make it work for you. Be prepared for loads of questions.
A part-time job or a summer job can be a big learning experience for a kid when it comes to both spending and saving. Those first paychecks provide perfect opportunities to talk about tax withholding. Help them decide how they want to spend some earnings — and how to save some, too.
Teach investing basics.
Teenagers might be curious about how to invest in companies they interact with daily, such as Facebook/Instagram, Google or Twitter. This is the perfect time to explain why it’s important to diversify a portfolio. While discussing individual stocks, you can also talk about the benefits of mutual funds. Discuss the uncertainties of any investing and how to think about market volatility.
Inspire charitable giving.
Sound money habits also can include donating to meaningful causes. Discuss the charities you support with your time and money. Ask your grandchildren which organizations they might like to support — such as a food bank, animal shelter or church. Help them realize that financial responsibility means making the best use of money for themselves and others. If they want to give, show them how to contribute a portion of their savings.
Grandparents are uniquely positioned to give love and support in many ways to grandkids. Teaching your grandchildren practical money skills can be a very useful life skill and can lead to a happy and successful life as they grow up, which is the best gift of all.
Skip Johnson is an advisor and partner at Great Waters Financial, a financial-planning firm and insurance agency with locations in Minneapolis, Richfield, Minnetonka, White Bear Lake and Duluth. Johnson appears regularly on Fox 9’s morning show.