With a 9-year-old in tow, you’re about halfway toward legal adulthood. Scary, right?
The age of diapers, teething and potty training probably feels like the premodern era at this point. Meanwhile, your new hurdles will include impending puberty (yes, already!) and raising a responsible, kind human ready to flex their independence.
As your not-so-little one becomes a preteen, there are a number of important conversations on the horizon. Some are uncomfortable, some are empowering—and all are worthwhile.
Here are nine topics you should face head-on.
Most 9-year-olds straddle the line between childhood and early adolescence. And while it may sound impossibly young, some 9-year-olds (especially girls) are beginning to go through puberty.
If you haven’t started talking with your child about the changes their body will go through, now is a great time to begin. Need a little help broaching the subject? Robie Harris’ book It’s So Amazing is a great resource.
By 9, kids are noticing the differences between how people live. Use your child’s observations as an opportunity to discuss money. For instance, if your kid says, “That person drives a brand new Porsche; they’re rich!” you might seize the moment to note that what people buy, live in or drive doesn’t actually tell you how much money they have.
Erica Sandberg, consumer finance expert and author of Expecting Money, says, “Tell your kids that unless you look at someone’s bank statement, they have no idea how much money someone has. All they know is that the person has a new car.”
This is a great time to initiate conversations about financial inequality, as well. Nine-year-olds are often becoming interested in helping others, so consider finding a charitable cause for your family to donate money and/or time to.
You and your kids aren’t the only ones getting older. While it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to have a conversation with your own parents about whether they have their estate plan in order, including a last will and testament, health care proxies and a durable power of attorney.
If talking about money isn’t part of your family culture—and let’s face it, for many, it isn’t—Sandberg suggests harnessing your powers of observation. “Look around their home when you’re visiting. Is the refrigerator empty? Do things need repair?”
If your parents are struggling financially, talk to your spouse and decide whether you have room in your budget to help out. We also like these six tips for stretching your dollar when you're feeling "sandwiched."
If you’re worried about your parents’ mental capacities slipping now or in the future, you might ask them to sign a HIPAA release and give you access to their financial accounts so you can check in (with their permission) with their doctors, lawyers and accountants.
“In the event that something were to happen to them, you want to be able to step in pretty seamlessly,” says James Kelly, a wealth strategist with PNC Wealth Management.
Your child might feel ready to roam the neighborhood more freely by themselves, says Keri Ann Wilmot, a pediatric occupational therapist. You might also start to feel comfortable leaving them home while you take the dog for a walk or make a quick grocery run.
Of course, some 9-year-olds are decidedly unprepared for this level of responsibility. So, go with your gut when it comes to making decisions about giving away more freedom—not with what your kid’s peers are doing.
If you think your child is ready to be home alone, start small. And, of course, check your state’s laws first, as some states such as Oregon and Maryland require children to be at least 10 and 14, respectively, before being left alone.
Speaking of navigating parental peer pressure, your 9-year-old may be pestering you for a smartphone or other device. “Everyone else has a phone!” might already be a common refrain in your house.
Deciding when you’re comfortable with your child having a smartphone or other tech devices is a very personal—not to mention controversial—choice. If you’re inclined to keep your kid phone-free for a while longer, check out the Wait Until 8th movement for some extra confidence and practical tips.
Peer pressure can be tough, but confront this by speaking openly to your child about your decision, so they understand that you’re doing this for their own good and not simply to be mean (even she doesn’t agree).
If you were no longer around, would your family be all right? One way many people choose to help protect their loved ones is with life insurance. Term life insurance, in particular, is designed to provide a financial buffer for your family if you were to pass away during a certain time period, or term.
Ideally, your child is only ten (or maybe twenty) years away from financial independence, plus you might have younger children to think about. When choosing a term for your life insurance policy, think about how long it’d take for your kids to be out of the house or otherwise taken care of.
Some people choose whole life insurance to cover their families until they die, but others choose term life insurance because it’s more affordable. Once the term runs out, the plan would be for their family to be financially stable without them.
You can apply for a term life insurance policy in under 10 minutes with Fabric.
As kids begin to move away from toys, you may notice an increased appetite for expensive items like name-brand clothing or sports equipment. This transitional time is a great opportunity to open a custodial savings account for your child, says Sandberg.
“If they get an allowance, teach them to deposit it into the account, tell them about interest and let it grow,” says Sandberg. She also suggests beginning to teach your 9-year-old about what credit is, how to build credit over time and how a credit score works. “Show them how to use debit cards to take money out of the ATM. Discuss the differences between paying for something right away with cash and paying with credit.”
If your child wants something you’re not comfortable paying for, like a video game or yet another slime-making kit—basically, anything that qualifies as a want rather than a need—you might make them use their own money. Or lend your kid the money and have them can pay you back with a little interest, teaching that borrowing isn’t free. You can always take that “interest” and toss it into their savings account.
Kids can also earn some cash by doing a side gig to help bring out their creativity and entrepreneurial side. Common side hustles for school-aged kids include shoveling snow, mowing lawns, launching a lemonade stand or being a mother’s helper. “Jobs like these help kids understand that money means something, and that they have a skill they can use,” Wilmot says.
While most parents would claim that they teach both their sons and daughters the same money lessons, research shows that parents tend to spend more time talking to boys about money than girls. That can result in girls growing up without the same financial literacy, or the same confidence, as their male peers.
“By the time they get to college, we can see that the female population is better in math than boys but they’re behind in personal finance,” says Jamie Hopkins, a professor of retirement income planning at the American College of Financial Services. “They’re not learning about personal finance in school, so parents are teaching them differently.”
Don’t know where to start? Here are six key ways to teach your kids about money.
Having regular talks about money with your partner is key to making sure that you’re both on the same page. “A lot of people get caught up in day-to-day responsibilities, and they forget to take a step back to talk about their personal and financial goals,” says Eric Tyson, author of Personal Finance for Dummies.
If you disagree about something or are struggling with specific issues, you might enlist the help of a third party, such as a professional financial planner. Your company may offer free or discounted financial planning as part of its financial wellness benefits. If not, you can find a fee-only planner at CFP.net.
Try to set aside a regular time at least once a month to go over your finances, discuss your future goals and address any differences in your priorities.
Congratulations on making it to the halfway point of parenting, or at least the most hands-on phase of raising your child.
Life with a 9-year-old brings almost endless opportunities to breach important conversations, of both the inspiring and the cringe-worthy variety. So take a deep breath and start talking. You’ve got this.
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This material is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific financial advice or to serve as the basis for any decisions. Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want a easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.
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