February 26, 2002

Baby Talk

A new book, Mommy, Are We Rich? Talking to Childre

Barbara Hauser, special counsel at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, who will be speaking at the AIMR Integrated Private Wealth Management conference in Phoenix March 11-12, will be taking the podium to talk about one of the most difficult subjects to broach with children: money.

Says Hauser, "It's easier to talk about sex than money." She points out that many wealthy parents, while fearing that their children will grow up to be spoiled and without ambition, nevertheless have no idea how to begin steering them toward the values they want their children to be able to rely on later in life. "They kept saying, 'Isn't there a book I can read about this?'" she laughs, and notes that she and co-author Suzan Peterfriend were unable to find one. So they wrote one. Entitled, Mommy, Are We Rich? Talking to Children About Money, the little book, illustrated by a four-year-old artist, brings the subject back to the basics.

First, consider a child's question and current level of knowledge, the book advises. Second, tell the child what he or she wants to know. Remember, the authors warn, the case of the child who asked where her baby brother came from; she got a long and detailed "biological answer" when all she had wanted to know was if her baby brother came from the same hospital her friend's baby brother came from. Children's questions often ask for information other than what our adult brains think they want.

The authors address the subject with simplicity and an understanding of the way a child's mind works, as well as consideration for the way an anxious parent's mind works. Pointing out how a parent can pass on money fears to a child, the authors offer ways around this, and give suggestions on how to address the questions of responsibility and a love for giving and sharing that most parents seek to instill in their children.

While Hauser's talk at the conference will address the different informational needs of small children, teens, and young adults, the book is geared primarily toward introducing small children to the idea of what money is, how it works, and what purpose it serves when present in abundance. It also points out with poignant examples how children can interpret (or fail to interpret) a working parent's scarcity of time with regard to the child and family life.

If you or your clients have been seeking a way to talk to children about money, the insights here can steer you in the right direction.

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