Expert Interview with Robin Taub on Teaching Kids About Money for Mint

The most common mistake parents can make when it comes to teaching their kids about personal finance is not teaching their kids about personal finance, says Robin Taub, author of A Parent's Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids.

"Maybe they think money is a taboo topic, or that their kids are too young, or not interested," she says. "But kids want to learn, and they want their parents to teach them."

Robin, who works as a financial consultant, recently checked in with us to share why it's critical to have conversations with your children about money management right now as well as offer her advice on how to teach kids of all ages about spending, saving, investing and donating.

Read on to learn more:

Can you tell us about your professional background and area of expertise?

I am a chartered professional accountant (CPA, CA). I have worked as an auditor, an income tax specialist and a chief financial officer for a real estate company. I also worked on the trading floor at Citibank Canada, structuring and marketing derivative instruments.

Currently, I work independently as a financial literacy consultant, blogger, writer and speaker. I help my clients create content and resources that demystify personal finance.

Tell us about your book, A Parent's Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids...what spurred you to write it?

I was approached to write the book by the publisher, CPA Canada. The book was inspired by my experiences trying to teach my own kids, now 19 and 17, about money. Being financially literate is a crucial life skill, and I wanted to make sure my kids acquired the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions throughout their lives. And I wanted to guide other parents to do the same.

What are the biggest challenges parents face in talking to their kids about money?

The biggest challenge parents face in teaching their kids about money are:

  • Lack of knowledge (they try, but they just don't know how to approach it or what to say)
  • Lack of time (they don't recognize opportunities as they come up in their daily lives for "teachable moments")
  • They're not good at it themselves (so they avoid it or procrastinate)

What are some of the most innovative and/or interesting ways parents are talking to their kids about money that you've come across?

Parents are using apps and games to teach their children, especially younger kids. Although it's not new or innovative, one of the most effective ways parents can teach their kids about money is by giving them an allowance. An allowance teaches them that they have money choices (save, spend, donate, invest) and that money is a finite resource. Parents have to let their children make mistakes when they're young and the financial stakes are low.

What advice do you have on teaching personal finance skills to...

...preschoolers?

Make it fun and take advantage of their natural curiosity by playing games, even simple counting games with coins. Then move on to apps such as Learning Money with Leo by RBC.

...elementary school-aged kids? (grades 1-5) Use a multi-slotted piggy bank to teach them about choices; they can allocate their allowance to separate compartments for save, spend, donate and invest.

...teens? Introduce them to the concept of a simple budget: a plan for how they spend their money. Then determine how much, if any, will come from an allowance and how much will come from earning money with a part-time job. When they are spending their own money (even if some comes from allowance), they think longer and harder about their purchases than when they are spending yours.

What are your favorite tools and/or resources for both parents and children when it comes to managing money?

I always recommend Mint.com to help parents and older children track their spending. Tracking your spending is a great reality check: How you think you're spending your money may be very different from how you're actually spending it. And tracking it all is a powerful motivator to make better spending choices. Mint.com takes all of the drudgery out of the process and makes budgeting easy.

How can parents be better examples to their children?

Parents can be better examples to their children by getting their own financial house in order and modeling responsible money behavior. Your kids are aware of both the good and bad money habits in the home. They are watching and listening and learning from you.

What are some ways parents can teach their kids about investing so they're not scared of it when they're adults?

One way parents can introduce investing is by buying their child one share of a stock in a company they are interested in - e.g., Apple or Disney. Use it as a "teachable moment" to explain what a stock is, how its value rises and falls, what a dividend is, etc. And have your child follow the stock's performance over time.