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BYU study: Raising money-wise kids benefits their future romantic relationships


Parents are wise to have “The Talk” with their children long before their first dates, high school dances and surely prior to their future courtships and marriages.

But for this article, “The Talk” has little to do with the birds and the bees. While age-appropriate discussions about intimacy are essential in the years leading up to young adulthood, moms and dads can also help their children better prepare for future romantic relationships by teaching them healthy money management behaviors.

A recent Brigham Young University study examined links between children learning sound money management practices and later enjoying positive outcomes in their future romantic relationships.

In a discussion with the Church News, Ashley LeBaron-Black, a BYU professor of family life and the lead author of the study at the Church-sponsored school, said prior research supports theories that what children learn about money from their parents in the home, either intentionally or unintentionally, is the primary influencer in their  “financial socialization.”

And while schools may offer some financial literacy instruction, “Kids are going to learn the most about money from their parents,” said LeBaron-Black “ It just rubs off on them every day.”  

Parents can have a major impact on their children’s financial future when they deliberately take time to teach their children money management skills and behaviors — including how to save money and live providently, adhering to personal budgets and understanding and properly utilizing credit.

But the benefits of positive parent-child financial socialization — becoming “money wise” — can also apparently extend into a girl’s or boy’s future romantic relationships.

Titled “From Piggy Banks to Significant Others: Associations Between Financial Socialization and Romantic Relationships Flourishing in Emerging Adulthood,” the BYU study explored the theory “that one way we can help set kids up for successful relationships later is by teaching them about money,” said LeBaron-Black.

The BYU study is published in the Journal of Family Issues.

Working with colleagues at BYU and the University of Arizona, LeBaron-Black surveyed a diverse group of about 2,000 “emerging adults” in the United States between the ages of 18 to 30 who were in romantic relationships. 

Some survey questions measured the health of those romantic relationships and if participants felt those unions were flourishing and growing. The researchers also asked survey participants about the money skills, if any, they learned from their parents during childhood.

“We found that financial socialization was related positively to relationships flourishing,” said LeBaron-Black.

In summary, participants who reported learning  positive money skills from their parents when they were kids were more likely to practice positive financial behaviors as young adults — leading to better outcomes in their flourishing romantic relationships.

Healthy financial behaviors, added LeBaron-Black, sets a person up for financial stability — a boon in any romantic relationship. “If you are not constantly trying to just get by or always trying to manage a potential financial disaster, you are going to have more time and energy to put towards a relationship.”

Responsible financial behaviors can also signal that a would-be romantic partner is likely to be reliable and capable of commitment, she added. Healthy financial behaviors and healthy relationship behavior “both require a lot of diligence and patience, hard work and sometimes delayed gratification.”  

Provident living, thrift and self-discipline are fundamental Latter-day Saint principles. And many mothers and fathers in the Church are eager to provide the financial socialization their children will need when they leave home for, say, missions, schooling or marriage. 

“When people are self-reliant, they are able to put their best selves into every aspect of their lives, including their romantic relationships,” said LeBaron-Black. 

Utilizing her recent academic research, the family life professor offers some common-sense counsel to Latter-day Saint parents trying to raise money-savvy kids.

Parental example

First, practice proper parent financial modeling.

“That basically just means being an example for your kids,” said LeBaron-Black. 

Children watch how their own parents manage money, “and they tend to manage money in the same way when they grow up.”

Talking about money with children

Second, have frequent parent-child financial discussions.

For some parents, talking about money with their children is a taboo. Mothers and fathers may even want to shield their children from the often stressful realities of family finances. 

“But the research would support parents being open with their kids and talking about money in general,” said LeBaron-Black. “Take advantage of informal, day-to-day teaching moments at the grocery store or at the bank.

“Then have conversations in family councils about things like credit cards or the family budget.”

Hands-on learning

And third, allow for “experiential learning” — those hands-on opportunities for children to practice personal money management.

Give children a bit of space to manage their own money — and allow them to make age-appropriate money mistakes. 

A 5-year-old who opts to, say, empty their piggy bank to buy a new toy is learning the value and finite nature of money. Such experiences will serve a child well when he or she leaves for school, begins missionary service or enters into a romantic relationship.

“I think this is a concept related to the gospel,” said LeBaron-Black. “We can be told how to do something. We can be shown how to do something. But making our own  choices to do something is the whole reason for our earthly experience.”

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