Kids aren't known for their tact.
And when yours put you on the spot asking about your earnings, it might be tempting to change the subject or give a vague answer like "enough."
According to New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber, however, that isn't going to cut it.
In his new book "The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart With Money," Lieber writes about how a parent should handle this uncomfortable question.
"By now we know that 'none of your business' is not the right answer here," he says. "But simply spitting out a number isn't usually the ideal response, either. Before there can be any financial transparency, there has to be readiness."
For younger kids in particular, Lieber explains that even what might seem like the most honest, straightforward answer — a plain old number — won't mean much of anything to a kid who's never seen anything bigger than a $50 bill.
"The best way to handle this is to explain that we may indeed want to share our salaries by the time they're in high school, but they first need to learn a lot more about what it actually costs to pay for the things that the family has and does," he writes. "After all, it's not the income number that's important here as much as the context."
To get that context, he recommends involving them in your family finances, whether that's sitting with you as you pay your monthly bills or talking about why exactly a family pays for insurance.
If the kids are bored by this, he says, that's fine — it just means they aren't ready to learn it yet. If they aren't bored, they can start learning about other costs, like the price of your rent or mortgage and your taxes.
Ultimately, Lieber notes, there's a very simple reason to be upfront about your earnings with your kids: If they really want to know, they'll make it their business to find out.
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