Deal-Seeking Dad: Who Teaches Money Best – Mom or Dad?

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When it comes to teaching kids about money, moms and dads seem to have completely different styles.

Financial responsibilities, like household chores, are often divided up among couples. The husband may take on the bills and balancing the checkbook, while the wife works on investments and saving for a family vacation.

The same goes with teaching children about money, where moms and dads take on more traditional roles, according to a TD Bank financial literacy poll. The poll found that dads are more likely to focus on the tangible aspects of money (such as saving money) while moms deal more with everyday financial conversations.

“The survey shows that each parent contributes different money-related lessons when it comes to a child’s financial education,” says Suzanne Poole, an executive vice president at TD Bank. “This indicates that it’s important for moms and dads to combine efforts to ensure that their children learn all aspects of financial literacy from monthly budgets to everyday spending.”

Here are some of the ways the survey revealed moms and dads differ…

Dads: financial confidence

Dads were found to be 10 percent more confident than moms in their financial knowledge. Overall, 34 percent of respondents rated their financial knowledge as “good” or better. But dads may be a bit too confident – with 35 percent claiming they don’t need a budget. Even with that confidence, 66 percent of dads reported that they wish they had more conversations about money with their children.

Other findings:

  • 52 percent of dads provide an allowance.
  • 32 percent of dads help kids set a savings goal.
  • 61 percent of men act as the decision-maker and handler of financial matters in the household.

Moms: more action

Moms may perceive themselves to be less financially confident, but 52 percent feel they take all or most of the responsibility when teaching their children about finances. And they’re more likely than fathers to teach their kids concrete ways to learn about money:

  • 81 percent of moms teach children how to count money.
  • 70 percent of moms teach money matters while shopping.
  • 70 percent of moms show children how to save money in a piggy bank.

As any child knows, parents aren’t always good about practicing what they preach. “Do what I say, not what I do” may be a common refrain that parents want to change in teaching financial lessons – 47 percent of families aren’t following or creating a monthly budget, with only 1 in 3 parents setting a savings goal, according to the TD Bank survey.

But while they’re not following their own advice too well, parents are at least giving it, with 55 percent of families talking to their children more often about money, and 30 percent of families feeling they’re being more proactive and having conversations with their children before matters arise.

Investment manager Heidi Foster told Money Talks News that she’s noticed mothers and fathers approaching money differently.

“I think that fathers are great at being direct, using spreadsheets, or teaching children how to balance an account,” Foster says. “All of which are very necessary skills for being financially successful. I find that mothers tend to be better at discussing the bigger picture and feelings about money and spending it and saving it, and can be the best proponents at teaching their children to save up for something they want. These discussions also lead to future financial success.”

For parents with teenagers, talking about sex may be more comfortable than talking about money. Junior Achievement tries to make it easier with online games and lessons for elementary school students and up.

A different study, from Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation, found that teens want to listen to their parents on money matters, with 81 percent of teens saying the recession has motivated them to learn about money management, and that parents are their top resource for financial planning. Still, less than half of the teens said they’ve discussed money management with their family.

The “birds and the bees” talk may be awkward, but being in debt at age 18 could be just as dicey.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay area and the father of a 6-year-old daughter who has a savings account that she contributes to from her weekly allowance.

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