Rich kids are a little bit smarter about money than you might think, a recent survey from PNC Wealth Management suggests. But they still have a long way to go in developing healthy earning, saving and investing habits, the survey shows. Often, their parents fail to take some basic steps to help them with this crucial task.
Financial advisors have a great opportunity to win client loyalty—with just a little extra work—by helping out with the kids. Teaching kids about money is not always something that parents know how to do, or want to do, says Thayer Willis, a licensed clinical social worker and professional speaker on the psychology of wealth—and someone who, as an heiress to the Georgia-Pacific fortune, has firsthand experience with growing up rich.
“The challenge in wealthy families is often that the parents are either not financially literate themselves, or irresponsible—there could be a lot of practices that are not useful learning tools for kids,” says Willis. “For instance, in wealthy families, there is often a lot of resistance to the idea of budgeting. So, how do you teach a kid to budget if you’re not practicing the same thing yourself?”
The good news is eight in 10 wealthy teenagers surveyed said they don’t plan to live off family money, and seven in 10 disagreed that they did not work as hard because they knew their families would always provide them with the money they need.
Still, when it comes to actually learning about how to manage money, parents don’t seem to be doing enough. “Only half of our surveyed parents [56 percent] said they give a ‘regular allowance,’ which is the first most basic tool to begin teaching children about money and responsibilities,” says Bruce Bickel, Ph.D, senior vice president, who provides financial counseling to families for PNC Wealth Management. Instead, nearly three-quarters of the kids get their spending money from their parents when needed.
In addition, some 63 percent of wealthy parents in the survey said they have set up basic bank or investment accounts for their children. But only 21 percent of the teens said they actually put any of their money into savings, while 9 percent make investments with their money. Finally, when asked what steps they had taken to teach their kids about money, only 27 percent of adults said they have discussed the family budget with kids.
Willis says that when she teaches financial advisors on this subject, she encourages them to step in and work with the kids on a quarterly basis, recommending that they offer a program of financial literacy for kids that begins when the child is very young. “An allowance at age five or six, having the child keep a ledger—the money that comes in and the money that goes out. And then when they’re teenagers, they need to have experiences earning money and studying a business, so that they have some framework. Otherwise investing can just seem like a numbers game,” she says.
“It’s also important to teach kids high-road values—to teach them about what money is, the power that goes along with it,” Willis adds. “That is a challenge in a wealthy family.”
The survey was commissioned by the PNC Financial Services Group. It was conducted online by Harris Interactive in October and November 2006 among 210 teenagers ages 14 to 20 and 272 parents with children under the age of 18, all from high-net-worth families. PNC defines high net worth as a minimum of $500,000 in liquid assets.