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Saving moms: Mothers doing better than they think in teaching kids about money

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

Sara Tetreault, her husband Brad and two children at Crater Lake, Ore. Sara Tetreault blogs on "stylishly frugal living" at GoGingham.com.

Tetreault family photograph

PORTLAND, Ore. — When Sara Tetreault taught her kids how to be responsible with money when they were 5-year-olds, she may have done too good of a job. She jokes that her 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl think she is a bad mom because she and their father would not buy them smartphones or video game consoles.

So the kids did what they had been taught to do. They saved their money, pooled it and bought an Xbox 360 on their own.

"I didn't want them to buy it at all," Tetreault says. "My husband and I had to let it go. They earned it. They bought it. And they are responsible for it. … I have a hard time biting my tongue. It is a good thing I have a blog."

Tetreault's outlet is GoGingham.com, a blog on "stylishly frugal living," where she writes about the adventures of being a mom in Portland and, like most moms, trying to make the dollars stretch.

But many moms don't think they are doing a very good job talking about money. Investment firm T. Rowe Price's "2013 Parents, Kids & Money Survey" says more than one-third of moms (36 percent) grade themselves with a C or below when it comes to being a good financial role model. But are moms really doing that badly?

The survey also found that 41 percent of moms think discussions around savings and spending wisely are "critically important," versus only 28 percent of dads. Kids also have confidence in mom's money savvy.

Sixty-seven percent of kids agree that their parents do a good job of teaching them about money and 23 percent strongly agree, according to the survey. That's 90 percent on the side of the parents. "That speaks to the confidence parents need to have in bringing up the subject," says Stuart Ritter, a financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Investment Service — and a father of three young kids.

The survey shows that kids are interested in money and even in specific topics such as learning about how banks and credit cards work (34 percent), inflation (27 percent), and diversification (20 percent).

"Parents have this great opportunity to take advantage of that interest," Ritter says, "and it centers around taking advantage of everyday teachable moments."

For example, a mother could be in the store with her children and trying to decide whether to buy something. She could talk about why or why not to buy something.

When she takes something out of the ATM, she can talk about how hard she worked to make that money in the first person. She can talk about credit card bills and how she pays them off every month.

"It is working into all those daily discussions so that kids feel comfortable in asking questions," Ritter says.

"Unfortunately, people think talking about money means a formal sit-down in the living room when your child is 18 years old, and his eyes are rolling, and you are supposed to talk about price to earnings ratios and stocks. That is not what it is about."

Moms first

And whom do the kids turn to first to learn about money topics? Fifty-nine percent of kids say they turn to their mom.

Sharlet Bouchelle in Buena Vista, Va., was surprised at first that kids expect mom to have the money answers. "That isn't something you think of typically being part of motherhood," she says. But then, after thinking about it for a minute, Bouchelle says, "Of course, kids spend more time with their mothers, so that makes sense."

Bouchelle is somewhat of an expert in spending time with her kids. She homeschooled her four children (ranging in age from 27 to 13) and was Virginia's Mother of the Year back in 2011.

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