Like most kids, I got a weekly allowance. As long as I kept my room clean, helped out with the dishes, and checked off the other tasks on my weekly chore list, I was handed a crisp Lincoln at the end of each week. My parents often preached the importance of saving, so I was pretty good about letting those $5 bills pile up until I had enough to buy whichever toy I most coveted at the moment. But the conversation stopped there, and it’s like that for a lot of girls.
This week, a survey of 1,000 parents conducted by Giftcards.com is making headlines with some disappointing responses. Parents not only give their sons a higher allowance than their daughters, they are also more likely to talk to them about bank accounts, taxes, credit cards, and investing. Girls, on the other hand, aren’t given much advice about building wealth. Unfortunately, the survey’s results are right in-line with past reports. Last year, The New York Times reported that girls do more chores than boys. And another survey, by chores and allowance app BusyKid, also released data showing a gender pay gap for childhood allowance. Um, not cool.
Simply paying sons and daughters equally is an obvious correction, but Shannon McLay, the founder and CEO of The Financial Gym, says deeper conversations surrounding money matter greatly, too. “Financial literacy starts at home,” she says. “Our clients who struggle with money, their parents either never talked to them about it, or is was always a scary subject like credit card debt or struggling to pay the bills. And because there was all that fear, they just kind of grew up scared about money and avoided it.” Mothers tend to communicate more frequently than fathers with their daughters; and fathers speak about finance more readily with their sons, which leads to even more disparity. “We know women are not talking about money enough. Not with each other, not with anyone,” she says. “Men aren’t as hesitant. So that’s another reason why girls aren’t learning financial literacy.”
“The gender pay gap is definitely real, but the conversation is not going to be corrected just by women talking about it to each other. Men need to be a part of it, too.” —Shannon McLay, founder of The Financial Gym
McLay’s advice for parents is to begin talking about money when their children are as young as five years old. “Give them an allowance and let them spend it all if they want to so they learn what it’s like to not have it when they want something else—just like an adult experiences!” she says. As children get older, parents should continue to broaden the conversation, integrating discussions about maintaining a bank account and how a credit score affects your life.
For more real world examples about how the conversation starts at home, McLay says parents should reconsider secrecy surrounding their salaries and household expenses. “Kids can be part of the household’s financial conversation,” she says. “If they want to go on a vacation, have them research how much it costs and be part of that.”
Perhaps most importantly, conversations shouldn’t be tailored based on gender. “The gender pay gap is definitely real, but the conversation is not going to be corrected just by women talking about it to each other. Men need to be a part of it, too. Parents can teach boys to be aware of it and part of the conversation,” McLay says. “Boys and girls need to be taught how to ask for what their worth,” she adds.
McLay works with both fiscally responsible parents and those who struggle to pay the bills. In both cases, she says, financial literacy begins at home.
Now that you’re fired up about money, here’s how to refresh your savings. Plus, what to do if your cashflow has you feeling super anxious.
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