Money Talk Night: Teach your kids financial responsibility on Sept.16

Money Talk Night: Teach your kids financial responsibility on Sept.16How's this for a generation gap?

Nine out of 10 parents of 18 – 22 year olds say they've discussed financial responsibility with their kids.

Only seven out of 10 18 – 22 year-olds say their parents have had the same talk.

Eight out of 10 parents and 7 out of 10 kids age 13 -- 22 believe the best way for their kids to learn to manage money is to have a budget to work with.

Only four out of 10 kids have a budget to work with (fewer, by the way, than have a curfew or rules regarding dating.)

Only 37% of parents with kids not yet in college say those kids will be paying for (or helping to pay for) their own education.

But 53% of kids in college say they are (or are helping to pay for) their own education.

These are just a few of the findings from a survey of more than 800 parents of teens and more than 800 teens conducted by Echo Research for American Express and me. Our goal: To find the holes that needed to be filled – and then to go about filling them on September 16, 2010. That's when we're holding what we hope will be the first of many National Money Night Talks.

What's a Money Night Talk? Just what it sounds like – a time that parents commit to sitting down in person (or on the phone or IM or Skype) and having a conversation about the things both parents and kids say are most important to them.

In the case of parents those are the value of money (79%), the importance of saving (77%) and living within a budget (77%). Kids had a slightly different take: the importance of saving (76%) ranked first, followed by getting a job (75%) and the value of money (72%). The cost of college, interestingly, was the one factor that ranked much higher on the kids survey (with 60% ranking it as among the most important things to talk about) than on the parents' (44%) survey. Conversely, preparing for financial independence, managing debt and living on less than you make, ranked much higher with parents than they did with kids.

The idea is to take the tools and use them to start a conversation that fits your needs and is meaningful to you, says Jud Linville, President and CEO of Consumer Services for American Express. "I believe that the best 'teaching moments' come from parents making it real for their kids when relevant situations come up and can be discussed. As the father of three daughters under age 25, I've seen firsthand the positive impact that talking to your kids about financial responsibility can have on them now -- and throughout their lives."

Unfortunately, what I've learned over the years in talking to many, many parents – particularly those who have suffered through the Great Recession – is a feeling of not knowing precisely what to say to their kids. Which messages are the most important? And how do you put them into words that will resonate?

So I have, with American Express, created three free tool kits, one for middle school children, one for those with high school kids, and one for those whose kids are in college, along with corresponding videos. Each was created to adhere to the core curriculum standards set by the not-for-profit Council on Economic Education (CEE). (The tool kits have been endorsed by the CEE which is suggesting that the states and teachers in its network spread the word about Money Night.)

So among the items in the middle school tool kit, you'll find an exercise about setting financial goals, a discussion guide to family bills (have you ever thought about how much we pay for things like cable and internet?), and a section on allowances. In the high school kit, there are questions and answers about paying for college and where that money is likely to come from, talking points about whether it's the right time to get a job, and a guide to figuring out the best way to pay – credit, debit, cash, charge – for different things.

Finally, in the college kit, there's a section on setting and sticking to a budget when you're away at school, talking points on avoiding identity theft, and information about credit scores, why they're important and how to keep yours strong.

You'll find all of these resources at along with instructions asking you to pledge to have this important conversation with your kids on September 16.

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