Boys know more about money than girls, survey says

08/29/2014 1:00 AM

08/29/2014 6:00 AM

What in the world would Gloria Steinem think?

That was my first reaction — to call the famed women’s rights activist — after reading a new survey from the T. Rowe Price investment firm titled “Boys and Girls Not Equally Prepared for Financial Future.”

According to the survey summary, parents seem to favor boys over girls when it comes to discussing money matters.

Among the survey’s findings:

Fifty-eight percent of boys say their parents talk to them about setting financial goals, while 50 percent of girls said that.

Forty-five percent of boys said they are “smart or extremely smart” about money versus 38 percent of the girls.

Eighty percent of parents with a son think their child understands the value of a dollar, compared with 69 percent of parents with a daughter.

Parents seem to trust twice as many boys with a credit card — for example, when ordering something online — than they do girls. That worked out to 12 percent of boys versus 6 percent of girls.

T. Rowe Price’s survey had some depth. The company posed questions to 924 children ages 8 to 14 and 1,000 parents with kids in that age group.

The results, at first glance, were a bit surprising and troubling to Judith Ward, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

“As a mom with a son and daughter, I wondered if I had done something wrong, if I had contributed to this,” Ward said in an interview.

However, she suspected that “boys might be more vocal than girls in asking their parents questions” about money, which may have contributed partly to the survey results.

“I don’t think parents are intentionally favoring sons over daughters,” Ward said.

OK. I stopped hyperventilating.

Indeed, taking a closer look at the numbers in the survey, there’s not a wide gap between boys and girls and their aptitude for financial matters.

The real aim of the T. Rowe Price survey is to impress upon parents the need to talk to their daughters and sons about money at an early age. The survey noted a strong correlation between the frequency of parental conversations about money and kids’ sound financial decision making.

For example, T. Rowe Price found that 60 percent of children who said their parents frequently talk to them about setting financial goals identify themselves as savers versus 46 percent of kids whose parents don’t have those money talks. And 58 percent of kids whose parents regularly talk to them about saving for college say they are putting money away for college on their own, as opposed to 23 percent of kids whose parents don’t talk much about college savings.

Ward said parents don’t need formal sit-down conversations with their kids. Use everyday experiences, such as shopping for back-to-school clothing and supplies or sports gear. Talk about price comparison, product packaging and how an ATM works. Dinner at a restaurant can also be turned into a teaching experience about tips and taxes, she said.

If you’re uncomfortable bringing up money matters with your kids, check out the online resources developed by T. Rowe Price at MoneyConfidentKids.com. It includes tips for parents on how to save for college and an explanation of financial concepts such as diversification, inflation and goal setting.

And for parents who are still uncomfortable, send me your questions at srosen@kcstar.com. I’ll answer them in future columns.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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