Shaped by recession, pandemic and student debt, heres what millennials want to teach their kids about money

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This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

Hey, internet: Remember millennials? Many of us have graduated from our lattes and leisurely brunches to become parents with jobs, car loans and perhaps even a mortgage.

On our road to adulthood, weve experienced two global crises a recession and a pandemic. Many of us are also still carrying mountains of student debt. These years have shaped our outlook on money, and now were teaching our kids what we know.

Here are the money lessons five millennial parents around the country want their children to learn (answers have been edited for length and clarity):

Dont ever think your child is too young to learn

Laurynn Vaughn, 37, of Kissimmee, Florida, is a single parent to two daughters, ages 5 and 4. She runs a day care that closed during the pandemic but has since reopened. She is also an active volunteer.

I dont want to pass on the fact that I was not taught about money. I think the earlier you teach your children, the better. I already teach them that theres pretty much three principles with money. The No. 1 thing is giving. The second thing issaving. And the third thing is, what you have left is what you can enjoy. My principles are a little different, theres really four: I pay bills, then I give, I save and have money left over to enjoy. Teaching them at their level is better than not teaching them because youre waiting for them to get to a level.

Related: Theres only one generation in U.S. history thats considered to be more unlucky than the Lost Generation

Its better to be a working student and leave college with much less debt

Mae Waugh Barrios, 34, of Holliston, Massachusetts, is a parent to three children, ages 10, 4 and 2. She is an instructional coach for middle school and is on an unpaid leave of absence to look after her children during the pandemic. Her husband, Francisco, runs a landscaping business. She has $20,000 in student loans left to pay off.

That was the biggest mistake I made in my whole life. Everyone said go to whatever college you want, just take the loans. Nobody told me the real after-effects of student loans. My husband didnt go to college. Our plan is to open acollege savings accountfor [our children] when I go back to work. Its [also] better to be a working student and leave college with much less debt. My husband and I have made sure we dont get so bogged down by debt that we cant survive. We talk a lot at the dinner table about being rich and being poor. If you are rich, your money works for you. If you are poor, you work for money.

More: Read the fine print and other money lessons from millennials approaching 40

A greater emphasis on experiences

Steffa Mantilla, 36, of Houston has a 4-year-old son. She is a certified financial education instructor, a former zookeeper and founder of the personal finance website Money Tamer.

In our household, were putting a greater emphasis on experiences rather than things. [For my sons birthday], instead of buying tons of presents, well buy one present and then tickets to the childrens museum or local zoo. We encourage relatives to give gifts of experience, as well, that they can do together. This puts the focus on family and friends while also teaching him to live with less stuff around.

Also see: Will millennials have enough money to retire?

Not being afraid to invest

Alan LaFrance, 37, of Austin, Texas, has a 5-year-old son. He works in digital marketing and his wife, Meladee, is a respiratory therapist.

You could pay for a car in cash, but you could [get] a loan for that car andtake that capital and invest it. If you can make more with that money, youre in a much better situation overall. At some point you cant just squirrel everything away, you have to start letting the money work for you. As parents, we want our kids to save, but in reality, you can do that too much and really miss out on a lot of opportunity.

Learn more: How much should I invest? How to Invest: Ep. 1

Build another stream of income

Jernessa Jones, 39, of Florence, Alabama, is a single parent to a 6-year-old son and is an accredited financial counselor at Operation Hope, a financial literacy nonprofit. She graduated from an MBA program during the pandemic and started a fashion accessory business.

My mom and dad didnt own a business and neither were homeowners. I was looking for houses last year because homeownership is the first step to building generational wealth. I realized I couldafford the mortgagesfor some of the houses I looked at, but Id probably be house poor. I decided to step back and see what I could do to build another stream of income. Entrepreneurship was another thing I could teach my son about. From beginning to end, even when I opened my business bank account, he was there.

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Amrita Jayakumar writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ajbombay.


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