When the investment company T. Rowe Price asked 924 children between the ages of 8 and 14 about money, the results sound like they belong in the 19th century: More boys said they talk with their parents about financial goals than girls (58 percent versus 50 percent), boys are more likely to say they are smart about money compared to girls (45 percent versus 38 percent) and parents themselves are more likely to say their sons appreciate the value of a dollar compared with daughters (80 percent versus 69 percent).
The gender difference, says Judith Ward, senior financial planner for T. Rowe Price, may be because boys ask their parents more financial questions. "I think what it comes down to is, boys might be more vocal about it and more interested and asking the questions, and parents are taking the time to answer their questions," she says. "I don't think it's intentional. ... You might not even realize that one child is more interested than the other."
To counteract this possible gender imbalance, Ward says parents can be proactive and discuss the family's financial goals. At the grocery store, for example, parents can walk through their own mental process for comparing prices, and do the same when shopping online. With her own children, When her children were younger, Ward says she often encouraged them to calculate the tip at restaurants together. "If you're doing anything mentally, like comparing prices, vocalize what you're thinking," she suggests. T. Rowe Price also offers parents a website, moneyconfidentkids.com, to help give them ideas.
The survey also found boys were more likely than girls to think their parents were saving for college (53 percent versus 42 percent) and boys are twice as likely to say they have access to a credit card than girls (12 percent versus 6 percent). Though it may be shocking to think that any children under the age of 14 have access to a credit card, Ward says kids might have said they have access to a credit card if they can make in-app purchases, for example, and boys might be more likely to video games that require credit cards for in-app purchases.
One of the most revealing findings in the study is the connection between parents speaking to their kids about money and the likelihood kids say they are think they are "smart" about money. Among kids who say they consider themselves very or extremely smart about money, about half said their parents frequently talk to them about saving and spending wisely. That correlation underscores the importance of parents bringing up money topics regularly, Ward says. Kids who self-identified as savers also were more likely to report frequent conversations with their parents about saving and spending wisely.
[Read: How to Teach Teens More About Money.]
The T. Rowe Price survey also looked at other types of money conversations, including discussions about budgeting, setting financial goals and saving for college, and found similar correlations between savvier money behavior and attitudes. Among kids who said they frequently discussed setting financial goals with their parents, 58 percent said they are saving for college, compared to 24 percent among those who do not frequently have those conversations.
Though parents may hesitate to discuss their own family finances with children, given privacy concerns, doing so appears to have a significant benefit. Among kids who frequently discuss family finances with their parents, two in three said they feel very or extremely smart about money. Among kids who rarely have those conversations, just 37 percent said the same. Frequent conversations about investment vehicles also correlated with kids feeling smart about money.
The T. Rowe Price findings come on the heels of other recent studies showing similar gender differences among teenagers and young adults. The Programme for International Student Assessment known as PISA, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, surveyed over 29,000 15-year-olds around the world. The survey found that in general, girls demonstrated less motivation to learn math and less belief in their own math skills. On average, girls scored lower on the financial literacy test, especially among the top-performing students.
Similarly, the 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study released in June found young women are less satisfied and less optimistic about their finances than their male peers, and that they are less likely to think of themselves as "savers." They also earn less on average and have lower levels of investable assets.
Over at the MoneyConfidentKids.com website, T. Rowe Price suggests a variety of conversation starters for parents, depending on the situation. When online shopping, it advises parents to "show your children the process ... including how you have to enter your credit card information," along with the receipt showing the amount you will pay. When making big purchases like a new car, talk about the trade-offs the family may need to make and what goes into saving such a large amount. Every time you pull out a credit card at a story, explain that the items are not free, but you're borrowing money, which you'll pay back later. Candy can also be a way to teach impulse control and the concept of saving for a bigger goal.
"Hopefully it's a wake-up call for parents. We need to make sure we're talking to our daughters the same way we're talking to our sons," Ward says.
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