How Did You Learn About Money?

  • September 14, 2021
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness

As a kid, how did you learn about money?

For some people, the topic never came up. Handling bills, income, expense and unanticipated challenges were largely invisible and handled by the adults with little or no transparency.

While some families talked openly about money, chances are you were in the majority who received your lessons from the “School of Hard Knocks.”

Some middle or high school classwork might have included the basics about balancing a checking account, or perhaps math class included a chapter on calculating compound interest. Even with this background, for most of us our “lived money experiences” formed our financial literacy.

We’ll often speak with our clients who tell us how they learned about money, and they share a range of experiences.

We’ve spoken with people who have told us their parents talked openly about money, budgeting and saving. They were given a monthly allowance, and were encouraged to set up a basic budget for spending and saving each month. That approach brings many benefits with it, since how parents or the adults we grew up with talked, acted and felt about money makes a huge impact.

We’ve also heard from people who witnesses the adults in their lives have disagreements about money, bills and handling expenses. As kids, they were aware their parents had completely different views about money and picked up on the stress.

“Family Lessons About Money” was the focus of a recent GreenPath webinar. From being transparent with kids about income and monthly bills, to setting an allowance and give information about credit card debt, the panel discussion focused on how to help kids grow up with good money habits with information about valuable skills that can last a lifetime.

The highlight videos shared in this blog post include key learnings from the webinar.

In addition, keep these tips in mind when you think about how kids learn about money.

Modeling Money Behavior

Parents, adults, those caring for children or others should remember they are “modeling” when it comes to money. If there is financial stress in the family about the family budget, the kids are watching – and listening.

Talk to your partner or other adult in the household and set some guidelines as to what will be discussed within earshot of the kids. Set some time aside—without the children—to work on your finances. With some effort, adults can find a middle ground when there are wildly different money styles in the household.

In terms of transparency, most experts agree to keep children informed about any financial challenges in a non-threatening way. Explain to them what you can and can’t afford right now and suggest other ways the family can manage and make financially healthy choices.

Another useful way to raise financially healthy kids is to give them their own spending power. This is “learn by doing” in action, as an allowance can give kids the chance to learn about handling money, while the stakes are still small. Parents might suggest how much to save, and how much to allocate to purchases, but ultimately it is the kids who manage money through their own successes and failures.

As kids get older, consider paying interest on their savings, they’ve set aside from their allowance, to teach them the value of compound interest.

Parents can take the opportunity to impart lessons about credit. If older kids want to make a big purchase, suggest they borrow the money from you. The will learn about how lending works in the real world when you charge an interest rate and draw up an agreement. Ask them to make up payment coupons to keep track of their payments

Around age nine or ten, most kids are ready to open a bank account and use it to save for purchases or upcoming travel.


When you consider how you learned about money, there’s value in getting the best information as early as possible.

Listen to the Podcast version of Family Lessons About Money >

Check out GreenPath’s online LearningLab for useful learning experiences about budgeting, managing checking accounts, credit and other financial information.

Watch the full webinar “Family Lessons About Money” for a lively discussion about tips, challenges, and resources when it comes to raising financially healthy kids. The panel features GreenPath leader Kristen Holt, and clients who are inspiring their children to be financially resilient. Also featured is Professor Bernard Dillard who enabled his students to conquer their own personal finances with the help of a math class that he pioneered.

Listen to the Real $tories podcast series for further insight.

If you need help getting your own financial house in order, connect with a caring, certified GreenPath counselor.