All Kidding Aside

Children are sponges, and they'll soak up your anxiety about money matters. Here's how to talk finances with the youngest members of your family.

Tell them what's what.
No pretending, no apologizing, and no long faces. In language that is age appropriate, frame the family's financial situation as a challenge: Everyone can help cut costs. Figure out the monthly average of your utility bills, then agree to give the kids half of any savings. Let's say you usually pay $500. Take shorter showers and turn off the lights, and you could reduce that cost by 10 percent ($50); the kids will earn $25, and you'll be $25 richer.

Allow them to pout for a while.
Respect that everyone—especially a teenager—needs time to adjust to belt tightening. Give them space and your love. They will come around.

Be honest about college.
Your children deserve to know sooner rather than later whether you can afford to pay for their education. With enough notice, they will be able to help themselves by taking on part-time work and buckling down at school to earn grades that will attract scholarships.

Suze Orman's latest book is The Money Class: How to Stand in Your Truth and Create the Future You Deserve (Spiegel & Grau). To ask Suze a question, go to

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