Piggy Bank is New Elephant in the Room for Post-Recession Families


Kids these days want to do more than just ask their parents for more allowance or some cash to spend at the mall—they want to talk finances. Seriously.

A new study from Junior Achievement USA and the Allstate Foundation found that 81% of teens said the recession has made them more eager to learn about money management. However, less than half of them have discussed financial planning with their parents, who they said are their number-one resource on this subject.

Talking finances with children today has become taboo or off limits for parents, because adults feel their own financial knowledge is not up-to-par. Having a serious discussion about money has become in some ways as awkward as talking about sex with kids, according to Jack Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement.

"Most parents feel inadequately prepared to have that (money) discussion, because nobody ever had that talk with them," Kosakowski said. "So ignorance gets passed on generation to generation."

Seeing the damage and hardship the recession brought upon so many previously stable families has also made teens face reality, he said. The survey found that 90% of teen respondents said the recession has pushed them to save more, and 78% said they will spend less due to the economic downturn.

"Our experience has shown that it doesn't sink in until its personal," Kosakowski said of the recession. "Parents got laid off. At one point, kids may have had an open checkbook with parents, and all of a sudden parents had to start making tougher decisions. But as horrible as it has been, the silver lining is that it really was a wake-up call to realize that its not a bottomless pit of available funds."

Kids are also unsure about how the credit system works. Close to 50% of teens said they don't know how to use a credit card effectively, and 24% think high school or younger is when they should get their first credit card.

The best time to start talking to kids about money is as early as possible, Kosakowski said. Parents should start as early as kindergarten with simplistic lessons about wants and needs, and saving even a little bit of money for the future.

"The best way for parents to do this is show kids how they pay bills each month," he said. "But that is difficult, because so many people are living paycheck to paycheck, or are living on credit card debt."

The teens surveyed agreed, with 81% saying that between grades K-12 is the best time to learn money management.

The survey also found that:

-          73% of teens are using savings accounts, checking accounts, and debit or credit cards

This is compared to 66% in 2009.

-          89% of teens think they will be as financially well-off as their parents.

The survey was conducted among a national sample of 1,000 teens, 12 to 17 years-old. Respondents were evenly split between male and female, living in the U.S.