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Putting a number on it: should you tell your child how much money you make?

A stack of  20 dollar bills
A stack of 20 dollar bills
Photo by Andy/athrasher via Flickr Creative Commons

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For some parents, discussing money with kids might be a topic even more dreaded than “the birds and the bees.”

And while most financial planners agree that you should talk to your child about finance early, there’s disagreement about whether revealing your salary should be part of this financial conversation. In this recent Wall Street Journal piece, one planner argues that a frank discussion of money, including the numbers, can give a child an understanding of the household budget. It will give a child a sense of why mommy can’t afford that toy, for example, and also promote financial literacy.

Another analyst disagrees, arguing that going into the specifics of salary may actually skew a child’s understanding of money, if they don’t have an understanding of all the other variables that are involved in their parents’ financial calculations.

For some parents with an unstable financial situation, the decision to keep money matters opaque may be about protecting their kids from anxiety. While for a well-off family, too clear of an understanding of wealth might make a child big headed or unmotivated. Then again, for many kids, the home is the only place where they’ll be exposed to real financial planning or decision making.

How have you navigated the salary conversation with your child? Is there an age at which you decided that the conversation was appropriate? How has your cultural or financial background influenced this decision?

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Jayne Pearl, freelance writer covering financial parenting and family business; she is the co-author of the book “Kids, Wealth and Consequences: Ensuring a Responsible Financial Future for the Next Generation” (Bloomberg Press, 2010)