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Improve Your Kids' Money Smarts

It's never too soon to start teaching teens the value of a dollar. Follow these tips, and your kids will score high when it comes to managing their finances.
Mom teaching son about  money
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Illustrations by Joel Castillo

A funny thing happened amid the fallout from the economic downturn: Kids became more money smart while moms and dads buried their heads in the sand.

According to recent surveys, 71% of children between 6 and 16 say they know how bad the financial crisis is; however, less than 40% of parents have turned it into a teachable moment by driving home some timely lessons on dollars and sense.

"Studies show that most parents don't talk to their kids about money nearly enough," says Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life (Fireside Press). She's also a co-commentator, with daughter Rebecca, 15, on the public radio show Marketplace Money, where the pair have discussed everything from negotiating allowances to setting credit card limits. "Money is no different from sex and drugs—it's something kids should learn from their parents," says Kobliner, adding that those who do are far less likely to spend irresponsibly or end up in debt as adults.

"You're also teaching them bigger concepts—how to make smart choices, delay gratification and have over the long term—that will last a lifetime." Here, some ways to get the conversation going.