Last night, iVillage and PASS from American Express continued to spread the word about the importance of having “the talk” with a private event hosted at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The Talk is an innovative program designed to help foster conversations about financial responsibility between parents and teens.
The evening opened with a private viewing of Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography. Attendees were treated to a guided tour with department of photography curator Sarah Meister, who organized the exhibition along with curators Roxana Marcoci and Eva Respini. Meister spoke about the show’s 200 works from 120 artists, including Diane Arbus, Rineke Dijkstra, and Helen Levitt.
Historically, women have had fewer barriers to entry to photography than to other art forms, in part because it can be practiced in the home. As many in the crowd nodded in agreement, Meister noted that women often play the role of family photographer. The unique level of engagement between subject and photographer is clear in many of the pictures on exhibit. When asked which part of the exhibit she liked best, Meister said, “It’s like picking favorites between your children.”
Following the viewing, attendees moved downstairs to take a seat for The Talk panel — an intimate and inspiring discussion about how teens really spend their money and how parents can teach financial responsibility. Amy Robach, mother of five and co-anchor of Weekend TODAY and Sharon Epperson, mother of two and CNBC Correspondent, moderated the panel. Joining them was expert youthologist Vanessa Van Petten of RadicalParenting.com, and five high-school and college students.
Today, more than at any other time in history, women are managing the family budget, accounting for 80% of financial decisions from groceries to auto purchases. Epperson emphasized the fact that, because only 13 states teach financial literacy, “the talk” must begin at home.
Christopher Perrotta, a 21-year-old college senior, was encouraged by his parents to save 50% of everything he earned. “They instilled in me that you have to save, save, save,” he said. He keeps his savings in a Certificate of Deposit (CD), so that he’s less likely to access the money he would be if it was in a regular savings account.
Helping teens become familiar with the tools they’ll use to manage their money as adults is a great way to teach financial independence. Rather than paying cash for chores, Robach uses online banking to transfer money into her children’s accounts so they can watch their balances grow. Her children use debit cards to make ATM withdrawals and purchases, which helps them learn financial responsibility. She cautions that parents who try this approach request that the bank not allow the account to be overdrawn, just in case.
Being entrusted with her parents’ credit card inspired Jennifer Mayrock, a 17-year old high school senior, to be financially responsible. She knew she would be held accountable for her spending at the end of every month, and that forced her to carefully consider purchases before making them. As a result, she actually felt more concerned about saving money when she was shopping with friends.
Many of the mothers in the room were impressed when 14-year-old Sydney Ruben said that she always seeks her mom’s approval before making a purchase with her credit card. When shopping with friends for a specific piece of clothing, she texts her mom a photo of the outfit and asks, “Is this okay?”
Inevitably teenagers will make some mistakes along the way. When that happens, parents should be careful not to focus on the money. “When a teenager overspends, I think it’s really important for parents to focus on the lying or the breaking of rules,” Van Petten said. “Focusing on the behavior and the respect for parents as opposed to just the money can help take some of the anxiety out of it.”
While the average allowance for teenagers is about $66 per month, many kids just ask for money when they need it. Epperson believes there is a need for structure when it comes to teaching financial independence. Many parents don’t understand why their children are spending so much, but the answer could be as simple as “because you’re giving it to them,” she said.
Epperson practices transparency when it comes to financial education with her children. When she recently had to replace the refrigerator in her home, she brought her 8 year-old along with her. The cost of a new fridge left an impression on him — so much so that he offered to contribute some of his own savings to the purchase. She declined, but the teachable moment was certainly a success.
In a recent nationwide survey released by iVillage, 41% of moms wish they knew more about managing money so that they could better inform their teens about personal finance. The Talk is an online resource with expert tips, insightful videos and mom-to-mom success stories to help parents teach themselves and their teens the importance of financial responsibility. Visit The Talk at ivillage.com/thetalk. Those that missed the event last night can still be part of the conversation by pledging to have The Talk at facebook.com/ivillagethetalk.