Six Strategies to Prepare Your Child to Become a Financially Stable Adult


Are you worried about the possibility that your child might live at home or be financially dependent on you forever? The truth is that parenting is hard work, and being intentional to prepare them for the realities of adulting with money can feel overwhelming. If your goal is to raise a confident, productive, and financially independent young adult, these six strategies can give you a solid starting point. Whether your child is in elementary school or a postgraduate still living at home, kids of any age can begin learning wise money management skills that will serve them well into adulthood.

1. Style Matters: Work with their design

You may be thinking, “How do I make teaching money skills a manageable part of our family’s daily life?” You can start by integrating lessons that are easy and natural for them.
Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is their stage of brain development right now?
  • Are they naturally a saver or spender?
  • What makes them tick or ticks them off?
  • What is their unique learning style?

The answers to these questions will help to identify your child’s natural learning capacity, behavioral tendencies, motivations, and challenges. Visual learners might respond well to a colorful savings chart. Auditory learners might do better with lots of verbal repetition with positive association. Tactile and kinesthetic learners might do better managing cash. Check out this article for more information about discovering your child’s learning style.
Your child was born with a beautiful and unique design. Taking some time to discover their individual learning style and natural tendencies can help you to fast track their financial education and also make learning about money fun.

🔑 Keys for success: Take advantage of your child’s unique personality and preferences to strategically add easy money lessons to daily life. 

2. The Language of Money: Talk about it

According to the T. Rowe Price - Parents, Kids & Money Survey, 53% of parents only have money conversations with their kids a few times per month or less. We can do better! The easiest way to turn the subject of money from a puzzling mystery to a wealth of knowledge is to engage in frequent conversations about all things related to earning income, spending, saving, investing, and being generous with money.

Become very aware of your emotions, words, and body language as you talk about money and finances. Avoid jokingly sarcastic phrases like “With what money?” or “Those rich people…” Instead, you can say “We can’t afford it… yet” or "That’s not in the budget right now". "Do you want to help me make a plan to save for it?” An intentional delivery will ensure that you are instilling hope in your children instead of fear. This can definitely be a trial-and-error process and is an area where a financial accountability coach can help by identifying your own language, mindset, and beliefs about money that will transfer to your child.

Your finances don’t have to be perfect or even great before you start talking about them with your child. Talking about ways you have messed up with your money can be a great way for your child to see that you are not perfect and that is okay. By doing this, you are teaching them healthy coping skills and resilience. You are also communicating that you are willing to be vulnerable with those you trust; your child and that they can do the same with you. Fix your mess and let them see the process you go through and the progress you make. A family that can talk openly and honestly about money can tackle just about any tough subject.

 🔑 Keys for success:  If you find that talking about money triggers unpleasant emotions, try focusing on anything and everything good about your current financial situation, what you are grateful for, and your hopeful future. Celebrate financial wins together as often as possible.

3. Back to Basics: Teach them financial principles

Financial principles are the building blocks that create a strong foundation for financial success. These will give your child a strong framework from which to launch their big dreams. Make sure that your child has at least a basic education in these six areas of personal finance:

  • Earning
  • Spending 
  • Saving
  • Investing
  • Managing and Protecting Wealth
  • Borrowing and Managing Credit

How you tackle these principles will depend upon the age and maturity of your child. You can try a thirty-day saving challenge with your child by opening their own savings account and setting a goal for the month. When teaching about investing, you could watch videos about 401(k)'s, IRAs, and mutual funds together, or even try a free stock market simulator like How the Market Works or Wall Street Survivor. Remember, your child’s foundation will only be as strong as yours is. If you find a principle you are not confident in, dive into financial literacy books, videos, or workshops to firm up your foundation.

🔑 Keys for success: Make the task of teaching financial principles more manageable by focusing on one subject at a time.

4. Mindset Matters: Encourage an abundance and growth way of thinking

Would you sometimes describe your child as ungrateful, fearful, apathetic, or a know-it-all? These are some behaviors to watch out for when you are preparing kids to be successful money managers and wise stewards of their resources. It won’t matter how much or how little money your child has to manage if they have a bad attitude, and as an adult, a poor money mindset can be absolutely devastating. Two mindsets you will want to encourage are the Growth Mindset and the Abundance Mindset.

The growth mindset is characterized by a willingness to be uncomfortable when trying new things, and a belief that innate talent is not as important to success as personal development and productive effort. If your child has a growth mindset, they feel empowered to take on challenges and are more likely to define a failure as a learning opportunity. On the other hand, a child with a fixed mindset is more likely to feel defensive and insecure, shy away from challenges, and believe that they know enough and don’t have to try harder or seek wisdom. To build up the growth mindset in your child, reward effort only when it produces results (i.e. when successfully completing a saving challenge, or getting hired for their first job), encourage them to ask questions, and give plenty of opportunities to try new and appropriately risky things.

The abundance mindset is characterized by the belief that there are enough resources for everyone, which leads to a grateful and generous lifestyle. These attitudes will serve your child well in their career, relationships, and personal finances. In contrast, a scarcity mindset describes a person who believes that money is extremely difficult to get and that there will never be enough. This mentality will cause your child to be fearful, stingy, or even reckless (i.e. YOLO lifestyle) with their finances. In this article, health and lifestyle writer Emily Boynton says, “A scarcity mindset causes hyper fixation, leads to short-term coping instead of long-term problem-solving, and increases jealousy and stress. For a more abundant mindset, advocate for collaboration, practice gratitude, notice automatic thoughts, and give when you can.” It’s clear that a healthy money mindset is vital to your child’s ability to manage their finances well.

🔑 Keys for success: Work on improving your own mindset. Then demonstrate gratitude, contentment, courage, and commitment for your children as often as possible. Be intentional to pass on a legacy of positive thinking for their financial well-being.

5. Great Expectations: Set firm boundaries

If you expect nothing from your child, that is exactly what you will get; nothing. If your goal is for them to gradually take over managing their own money and become self-sufficient, you’ve got to start with a blueprint. I lovingly call this the “Exit Plan.” This plan that you and your child can create together should outline clear boundaries for the limits of your financial support and be supplemented with frequent communication about what your expectations are for them. It may sound harsh, but working through this plan with your child can actually strengthen your relationship when your motives are rooted in love. As you execute the plan, be consistent in moving the needle toward the big goal by celebrating milestones and each new responsibility. You know your child’s limits better than anyone. Be careful not to enable unfruitful behavior but challenge them to rise up and take on more financial responsibility gradually over time. Healthy money boundaries and realistic expectations will cause your child to grow in their confidence and motivation for financial success. Most of us want our babies to stay babies forever, but we are harming them if we don’t prepare them for what is ahead. You can start this process sooner than you think. Don’t worry, no matter how independent they become, they will still always need you.

🔑 Keys for success: Model setting goals and following through. Show them how to track their progress with a goal chart, ledger, spreadsheet, or app.

6. Failing Forward: Look for opportunities

This one is huge! After your child has grown their confidence in their money management skills, look for opportunities to let them make a mistake…safely. This is not setting them up for failure, but instead, training them to overcome challenges and learn from their mistakes while still in the parental safety net. For example, if you see that your child is an impulsive spender and is not improving, give them a loan, with interest for something they want, and print off and sign a family contract. In the agreement, include the interest rate, late payment fees, and any additional fees you would like to add on (I.e. paperwork fee, rush fee, or parent management fee). Include the total cost of the loan with interest and fees in the contract. Sometimes this alone is enough for them to make the decision to wait. If they decide to take the loan, allow them to take full responsibility for remembering due dates and making payments with no reminders. When they miss a payment or mess up, make sure to speak to them in a loving and comforting way, with no judgment or I told you so attitude. Let them know that mistakes happen, and there are consequences, but that you believe in them and know they can do better next time. After the loan is repaid, make sure to look again at the agreement, so they can see how much they actually paid overtime, and how much they would have saved if they had waited. For example, “You could have bought the bike and these cool accessories for it.”

We found an opportunity with our oldest son when he decided he was ready to move out at 19. It’s a long story for another time, but he ended up moving back home because of financial mismanagement. We saw it coming. We let him do it anyway and did not try to convince him to stay. With all opportunities, it’s important to weigh the potential cost of your child’s failure against the value of the life lesson. In our son’s case, it was absolutely worth it. He is now completely independent and financially thriving. We talk every week and have a great relationship. He still asks for financial advice, but never for money.

🔑 Keys for success: Become your child’s coach and cheerleader so they know that you are the safe place, and they can always come to you when they make a financial mistake.

Remember that the goal is not to boot your child out into the adult world without a relationship or any emotional support, but to build up their confidence in their own ability to earn money, manage their finances and create a beautiful and intentional life. You can start today with the first brick in the rock-solid financial foundation for your child. One strategy at a time. 

Here are three more valuable resources to expand your knowledge and gain further assistance:

  1. 7 Effective Ways To Talk To Kids About Money - A Lighthearted Guide
  2. Teaching Your Kids How to Budget & Prepare Them For Life
  3. Money Mavericks Video Game




About the Author

Tressa Sheffield is a mom, wife, and professional financial accountability coach who loves helping parents teach their kids how to adult with money. She is also a retired professional horse trainer and riding coach, ordained minister, certified biblical counselor, soccer fan, and board game geek. Tressa has been coaching and mentoring teens, young adults, couples and parents for over 15 years through various ministries, non-profits, and her business. 


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