With today’s high unemployment numbers and slow economic growth, young adults face a tough financial environment. In fact, one-third of parents think they had it easier than their children. One way you can help your children maintain their financial footing in an unpredictable economy is by initiating a positive, productive conversation about money. They can benefit from hearing what you’ve learned about money and how to manage it. Use these suggestions to talk with your adult children about money and help them avoid financial mistakes.

Start the conversation

Money can be a sensitive subject, but opening up about your own experiences can ease the tension and stimulate conversation. If it’s appropriate for your family, include your children’s partners or spouses in the discussion.

  • Talk about financial plans you have made, what has worked for you, and why.
  • Share an anecdote about the financial help that your parents provided or how you were able to save for your first car or house.
  • Talk about money mistakes you’ve made, what you learned, and what you wish you had done differently.

Ease into questions

When it’s time to ask questions, focus on understanding your children’s financial goals to keep the discussion future-oriented and free of judgment.

  • If they have debt, talk with them about their plans to pay it off.
  • Discuss their long-term savings strategies, such as if they have a 401(k).
  • Ask if there is anything specific they would like you to help with going forward.

Make an action plan

If they are willing, you can be involved in your adult children’s planning. Guide them to take specific, concrete steps, such as:

  • Consulting with a financial professional; you can even recommend that they meet with yours
  • Establishing and maintaining a budget; perhaps give them software to help with budgeting
  • Paying off high-interest debt by a specific date; inspire them with a conversation about what they could do with the money they won't have to dedicate to debt repayment
  • Saving and investing for retirement; talk about the gift they have in being able to work toward this goal even as young adults

Provide constructive help during setbacks

More than 22 million adult children between the ages of 25 and 34 (often called “boomerang kids”) are living at home with their parents as a result of a tough economy. During difficult times, young adults may be especially reluctant to talk about money, but your support could be a critical resource in helping them reach their goals. Being involved will also help you  be comfortable about their futures.

Remembering these guidelines may make the discussion a little easier to navigate:

  • Be sensitive to the idea that young adults may be reluctant to have conversations about money.
  • Listen and be encouraging.

Getting your children on the right financial track may be one of the greatest gifts you can give them. The first step is starting the conversation.

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