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Let's Talk About Money

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This article first appeared on the 49er Family Hub. To sign up for this email newsletter, visit New Student and Family Services.

“I’m not made of money.” 

“What, you trying to air condition the outside?”

“You better go back there and turn those lights off.” 

“You need to eat everything on that plate.” 

“Because I said so.”

As a parent, I’ve said all of these countless times. As a financial literacy and well-being educator and researcher, I wish I hadn’t. A foundation of personal finance for all people begins with what they see and hear from what are considered More Knowledgeable Others. These individuals can be parents, friends, family, mentors, teachers, or other individuals who interact with us. The problem here is twofold — first, we have no idea that more knowledgeable others actually know what they are talking about. And secondly, money discussions are still considered taboo for some reason. Part of my program mission is to change this across campus while also engaging all of you in a more robust discussion about finances and what people face today in pursuit of financial well-being. 

A recent study found that 72 percent of parents are not talking to their teenagers about money at any level. Eighty-two percent of these parents indicated “fear” as the leading factor. This fear stems from a lack of confidence and ability in financial decision-making and potential embarrassment about the family’s financial position. I am here to tell you that you don’t need to have a finance degree to begin to engage others in the conversation about money. Now I believe that every single person should be using a weekly budget of some sort, but if you are not - that’s ok. Even more so, it’s OK to talk to your students or family about budgeting, household finances, and how you try to make things work financially. This open conversation is shown to lead to better behavioral outcomes.

No one needs to jump in and start talking to their students or even a spouse or partner about asset allocation or tax-loss harvesting. But you can open up and let someone know how you are changing a behavior in order to save a bit more per month. Maybe you ask your loved one about how they are trying to budget meal points or what they think has been costlier this year than they expected. These small conversation starters allow for a natural evolution of these discussions to move from taboo into the ordinary. Here on-campus students have access to robust and comprehensive resources concerning their financial literacy and well-being but connecting these resources with what’s happening back at home is where a real impact can be made. So next time you chat with your student, maybe ask them about their spending habits and how their classes are going.

Until next month,

Dr. Brad Yeckley MBA CPFC

Assistant Director for Financial Literacy and Well-being

University of North Carolina Charlotte