Talking to Your Kids about Money

Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor Ben Beshear with his son, Logan

Photo by Wes Battoclette

Every month, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor Ben Beshear sits down with us at LEAD Cincinnati to discuss a different aspect of personal finance, from planning for your retirement to safeguarding your investments. 


LEAD Cincinnati: When should you start talking to your kids about money?

Ben Beshear: In general, we think the earlier, the better. Around the ages of four or five is when you can start having some conversations that start teaching kids basic concepts. Our company has piggy banks made for kids that have slots for saving, spending, donating and investing. Just the concept of these four different compartments in the piggy bank is a great start to the conversation. As we tell clients, the sooner and more substantially people learn to delay gratification, typically the more successful they’ll be.

LC: What kinds of conversations should you have with kids at different ages?

BB: As mentioned above, typically, the conversations are really basic at four and five years old. And in middle school, we teach parents how to talk to children about how allowance works; what kind of jobs they can pay their kids to do; we’ll talk about the value of ownership.

We’ve had clients who encouraged their children to start businesses in middle school and high school. Something as simple as a landscaping/lawn-mowing service can be an amazing tool to teach important money concepts. Children who have their own bank accounts, understand taxes and have handled business with adults at a young age are destined to excel in the future.

During the teenage years, I think there’s a lot that can happen. In general, transparent conversations about college and college planning is key. I believe it’s important that parents develop a philosophy on education and how they’re going to pay for it. Whether parents want their kids to have skin in the game and match a portion of what the kids’ earned and saved or they encourage their kids to earn scholarship dollars while they are in high school, it’s extremely important to have these conversations and teach them about getting started early.

LC: You mentioned college, what are some other things that parents should be thinking about for college planning?

BB: As I’ve talked about in previous articles, we believe the 529 plan is an excellent tool to use for college education savings. These plans are subject to the ups and downs of the investment markets, but they allow a lot of flexibility, such as the ability to transfer accounts be- tween children, and all proceeds to grow free of tax when used for qualified education expenses.

All that being said, I think our best advice for parents is to start talking about college costs earlier on and to set expectations for what the family’s going to do and what the family philosophy is on education. The biggest mistake we see is parents not talking to their kids until they are on campus visiting colleges. It leads to parents paying for school or the kids taking out loans that potentially carrying a huge burden of debt. Just like the basic money lessons, I think the earlier the expectations are set, the better money habits they will develop.


Ben Beshear is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual, the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and its subsidiaries. Ben Beshear is based in Cincinnati, OH. To contact Ben Beshear, please call (513) 366-3664, e-mail at, or visit