Financial Well-Being

Talking Finances: Families Learn How to Discuss the Elephant in the Room

It seems that everything is up for discussion but money and personal finance are often taboo topics. BankIt is an innovative free on-line financial literacy resource that helps parents and children talk about money, including budgeting and saving.

On a recent school night, a group of parents and students gathered at the local middle school and engaged in an animated discussion about money and finance. As his wide-eyed mother looked on with amazement, one seventh-grade boy rattled off correct answers about budgeting, bills and debt.

The mother, a single woman with three children under the age of 12, often struggles to make ends meet and provide for her family, but until that night she thought that her children, including her oldest son, were oblivious to the financial realities of their lives.

Paula Roop, a lifelong educator and program director at the Henrico Education Foundation in Henrico, Va., says the mother discovered her son was more aware than she ever realized at a Bank ItTM finance seminar specifically designed to improve communication about money within families. The Henrico Education Foundation and Capital One sponsored the seminar.

I had no idea he really understood our family situation — murmured the startled mother to Roop

That realization was one of many such revelations that take place when parents and children talk about money at events facilitated through the innovative Bank ItTM program developed by Capital One and Search Institute of Minneapolis. Designed to be more than a conventional financial literacy program, Bank ItTM not only teaches the financial basics that children need to become financially healthy and successful adults, it engages families in a discussion on a topic that is often off limits. The program includes materials developed specifically for parents, teens and educators like Roop, all of which are available for free at www.bankit.com.

"She had never had a conversation with him about money before," explains Roop who oversees a leadership program for middle school students in Henrico County called Go for the Goal. "Now that she knows he really does understand, they can talk about the elephant in the room."

According to Roop, the elephant in the room is often money. At a time when it seems that virtually anything and everything is up for discussion, talking about money and personal finance are often taboo topics. However, Roop says the years of recession and sluggish economic growth have increased the need for more communication about money within families.

"This economy is providing us with the ultimate teaching moment," she says.
"Maybe parents don’t realize it, but they are talking a lot more about the economy. Their kids are overhearing those conversations and taking it all in," she says. "Yet, kids are often not brought into the loop. There is fear, and parents don’t want to upset the children. By having a program that allows for open discussion, we are bringing the parents and kids together. It’s kind of special."

The powerful program draws consistently high marks from parents, students and teachers, says Roop, who has made the financial literacy seminar an annual event for participants in the middle school leadership program used in her county to expose children from low-income families to options for the future. She has found it to be an innovative and effective way to help parents and students become more comfortable talking about and managing money and making more positive choices to achieve financial dreams.

"Kids are getting the message slowly but surely," says Roop. "And we find that communicating with their parents about money helps build strong family bonds."

To learn more about Bank ItTM and explore the interactive website, please visit www.bankit.com.