“Talking about family money is similar to talking to kids about sex,” said Jeff Savlov, founder of Blum & Savlov, a family business consulting firm. “There is such a thing as too much, too soon.”
Once past that hurdle, a good place to start is family stories. “Our family stories helped shape us into what we are today,” said Donna Skeels Cygan, president of Sage Future Financial, an advisory firm. “It is important to acknowledge which family members had a very positive impact on our childhood.”
These stories work better, though, when they’re not just focused on joy or success. Mr. Buckwald said he told stories about his financially challenging childhood. But as part of an exercise with Mr. Savlov, Mr. Buckwald also told his children about a relative who ran a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Being explicit with the lessons works well. Stephanie Eras, an engineer in New Mexico, said she used the benefits package offered by her daughter’s part-time job at Panera Bread as an opportunity to discuss savings.
As an inducement for her daughter to save the maximum amount allowed in the company’s 401(k) plan, Ms. Eras matched her daughter’s contribution. She also shared stories about her father and mother, who lived frugally.
“My mom didn’t tell us, ‘You must go to college and get a good job.’ She said, ‘You need to get a job with benefits,’” Ms. Eras said. “Those lessons taught me to live within my means.”
When her daughter announced that money wouldn’t buy them happiness, Ms. Eras pointed out that although that was true, money bought the things that they needed and wanted. “I listed them,” she said.