An Open Letter to All Parents/Financial Educators : What Nobody Else Will Share With You

“My kid doesn’t give a crap about money. Most 20-somethings these days are broke. The debt level is at astronomical highs. OMG what do we do?”

I’ve had this conversation countless of times with parents and financial educators.

Here’s the thing with financial education for young folks — everyone has it wrong.

I’ve attended conferences, listened to podcasts, read books, and chatted with brilliant minds on this topic. I’m not saying that I have all of the answers, but I think I know a bit more at this point about what’s going through the mind of a 20-something than someone in their 50s does.

First of all, where’s this coming from?

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago was kind enough to bring me in for the kickoff of Money Smart Week. I also appeared on Chicago Tonight during my quick stay. Therefore, all of this talk about money in your 20s has been on my mind. I felt that I just couldn’t help but to write on the topic.

Check me out on Chicago Tonight:

What can you do as a parent or financial educator? Below are my random thoughts on this topic from years of hands-on experience.

Stop using big buzzwords!

Who the hell wants to be financially literate? Not me. Not anyone.

Before you do anything, stop focusing on the buzzword of the month, and try to think about what we really want from our money in our 20s.

This leads directly to the next point…

Stop being logical.

Nobody wants to be fat. Nobody wants to be in debt. Nobody wants to have a poor credit score. Things just sort of happen. It’s not a logical process. It’s more emotional than anything. We forget about our money and our health as life gets in the way.

So being logical doesn’t help.

When’s the last time you heard someone in their 20s say that they want to be financially literate? NEVER.

Financially literate is a cool buzzword, but does anybody really care about that? Nope! Nobody wants to be more “health conscious.” We all want to look damn sexy.

We all want the following:

  • More money/income.
  • More savings.
  • Less stress.
  • A job we enjoy.

We don’t want to directly work on our credit scores, learn about fiscal policy or study index funds.

We want to somehow get from broke to money-in-the-bank. This is why you must speak their language. This site is aimed for folks up until 30 because I can’t relate to someone in their 30s that’s married with a family and kids. I just can’t.

With that being said, the next rule/thought is very important.

Understand the current situation.

A quick Google search will lead you to all sorts of case studies, anecdotes, and stats about the current financial issues facing young folks.

This one article at CNN Money brings up the following points:

“The only debt on the rise is student loans. In 2007, just over a third of young households had outstanding student debt. That jumped to 40% in 2010.”

That sucks to hear. It goes on…

“Brian Hackett, on the other hand, thought he’d be a homeowner by now. Instead, the 25-year-old is living with his parents and looking for full-time work after being let go recently from a part-time job.”

And finally…

“Many of those lucky enough to have employment either make less than they expected or are concerned about getting laid off.”

Not only do you have to take a job that you don’t care for, you have to stress about losing this job.

The current is drastically different from the one that you experienced. Please take this into consideration when trying to educate your kids or students on finance.


Let’s change gears now.

So what do you do? How do you get a young person to care about money as an educator/parent/teacher?

Set goals.

Why bother with saving money? Why bother with delaying a purchase when you buy anything that you want with your credit card? Why bother with any of this stuff?

What we really need is to set goals. Short-term and long-term goals.

I’ll share a quick story on how I got a friend into saving money with goal setting…

My good friend always saw me going on trips. He would make remarks about how it must be nice and that he couldn’t afford to travel. Since I really wanted him to join us, I told him I would help him save for the next trip. I asked him to give up one thing per week and to then give me the $20 that he would save. I would hold it for him.

As time flew by, he had no issues with handing me over $20 at the end of the week (it helps that he trusted me). He knew that if he handed me over $20, he would be able to go on a trip at the end of the year. This made it easy for him to save money. He would go out less and spend less money on useless crap. Guess what? At the end of the year he had $1,000 ($20/week adds up) and we went on a trip.

That’s an example of a goal. There are many other goals to save up for, depending on what your interests are. The key is to introduce the idea of goals because without a goal in mind, it’s impossible for us to start anything.

Tell stories.

The theme from our panel discussion on millenials and money was relevancy. You need to keep your material relevant and relatable. Most of us just can’t relate to money talk.

This is why stories are powerful. This is why I believe in sharing your ideas with the world and telling stories often.

If you can teach through stories, you’ll make a greater impact than you could with any powerpoint or spreadsheet. We all want something that we can relate to and not just another theory.

Make it easy.

Why does everyone have to make things so complicated? Keep it simple!

This means that you should show your kid the basics first so that you don’t run them off.

What are some of the basics of personal finance?

The basics need to be mastered first. Then you could move on to more advanced topics.

And finally…


This final point is key.

Shut up and listen for once. Stop with the lectures!

Seriously. You need to stop lecturing. We don’t like to be lectured to it. This is the most annoying thing in the world. I can’t even describe to you what happens to my mind when someone lectures me. I just shut down and want to get away. Nobody likes to be lectured to. It’s the worst feeling in the world.

That’s what you can do as a parent/financial educator. I would love to hear from both sides on this topic.

What would make you interested in money as a millennial/20-something? What have you done as a teacher/parent to get your kids to care about money?

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to All Parents/Financial Educators : What Nobody Else Will Share With You”

  1. Great job on the interview. You seemed so calm and collected!

    I completely agree – the number one problem that not just millenials face, but that is now a problem for everyone, is instant gratification. I do this with eBooks. I’d used to go to the library and check out books but now every time I want something new to read I head to Amazon fork over $10 and instantly have a book on my Kindle. It’s just so easy to do.

    The same goes with work. Now that I’m working from home I constantly have people saying “it must be so nice to get paid to sit in your house” (which really pisses me off) They want to know how they can do it, too without realizing it took me more than a year and hundreds of hours of unpaid work to do this. There are no get rich quick tactics.

    And as far as teaching a millenial about money I agree that you can’t lecture. In my opinion the best way to do this is to have a real conversation. Be open about your mistakes. Talk about money without pushing advice down someone’s throat. If you lecture it will go in one ear and out the other.

    Loved the post and the video!

    1. Thanks for the kind words on the video Alexa. I did my best to remain calm. I was pretty nervous before it started.

      I agree that instant gratification is huge in every single area of life. We all look at successful people and want what they have without considering what they did to get there.

      And yes — lecturing sucks! Whenever someone lectures me I shut down completely!

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