Bribing, stealing and lying. Is that any way to teach your kids responsible ways of handling money?
Some parents apparently think so, according to the just-released "Parents, Kids & Money" survey by the Baltimore-based investment firm T. Rowe Price.
The company's sixth annual report -- pegged to Financial Literacy Month events in April -- found that 69 percent of the parents surveyed want to set a good financial example for their children but they don't always go about it the right way.
The survey noted that nearly half of the respondents admitted they bribe their kids with money to encourage them to do the right thing. About 30 percent said they lie to their children about money. And when parents run out of cash, 30 percent admitted to borrowing money from their kids' piggy bank for their own use.
"One of the things we learned is that parents will borrow money from their kids to tip the babysitter. They know where to find a $5 bill," said Stuart Ritter, T. Rowe Price's family finance expert.
He hopes, he said in an interview, that parents are slipping the money back in the piggy bank.
These and other data points from the survey indicate the challenges and apprehensions many parents face when it comes to communicating to their children about finances, Ritter said.
For example, about 3 in 4 parents who participated in the survey admitted to having "some reluctance" about talking to their kids about money, and 28 percent said they are not good with money so they should not be the one to teach their kids.
Instead, the vast majority agreed that it is "appropriate for kids to learn about financial matters in school."
Some other highlights from the T. Rowe Price survey, which in January polled 1,000 parents of kids ages 8 to 14, and 924 children in that age bracket:
Nearly 60 percent of kids said they tend to go to Mom first with financial questions.
More than half the parents surveyed mistakenly prioritize saving for college over socking away money for retirement.
"Saving for retirement is like being on an airplane and putting your own oxygen mask on first," Ritter said. "There are lots of ways to save for college, but only about four main sources of saving for retirement."
There's confusion on how to save for college. 44 percent of parents placed plain vanilla, low-rate savings counts at the top of their list, while only 34 percent identified state-sponsored investment accounts known as 529s as the best choice. In addition, 7 percent of the adult respondents chose accounts that don't even exist -- UBO-67 and CS213.
Kids have a sense of entitlement when it comes to college. While 29 percent of parents said they planned to save for most or all of their kids' college education, 53 percent of kids expect them to pay for most or all of it.
Granted, parenting is hard enough without tackling money topics with your kids, and Ritter offered three suggestions to get the ball rolling,
First, have at least one weekly conversation with your kids on a money topic. Everyday situations can provide the spark, such as a trip to the grocery store with coupons in hand. For help, check out T. Rowe Price's MoneyConfidentKids.com website, which provides free online games for kids, tips for parents, and lessons for educators.
Second, cover the "mechanics of money and how it flows through the household," Ritter said. No need to reveal the size of your paycheck, but explain that money comes from working, and it pays for groceries, cable television, movie tickets and the like.
Finally, said Ritter, talk about family values and trade-offs for making decisions. "Too often we just say no to kids' money demands without conveying why we're saying no," he said.
Talking about money doesn't require an economics degree, Ritter said. "You probably know more than you think you do... just like you don't need to know the inner workings of a gear shift to be able to drive a car."
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)
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