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How to Demonstrate Financial Literacy in a Single-Parent Family

Building financial literacy (#FinLit) for our children is a goal of most parents. But however well-intentioned, many parents are focused on concrete, immediate needs like education, recreational activities and physical health and development—the seemingly abstract issues of financial literacy tend to fall to the wayside. For single-parent households, the pressure of carrying all the responsibilities on their own can increase the likelihood that discussions about personal finances, debt and savings aren’t top of list.

For single parents, the struggle to be debt free is often more difficult than for two income homes. On average, single parents bring in approximately $45,000 a year, with women bringing in less. With the relentless pressure to provide housing, good nutrition, education and social activities for their kids, it’s no wonder lone-parent households might put family financial planning low on the list. The problem is perpetuated by the ongoing belief that it isn’t nice or proper to discuss finances with others, and the fear that being open about money with children is too great a stress for them. Introducing a Family Annual Meeting (FAM), much like the AGM in the business world, can decrease stress about finances for parents and kids. A FAM is a great opportunity to introduce kids to financial management, increase financial literacy, and talk about debt repayment and savings in a non-threatening way.

The benefits of talking about financial literacy at a FAM are clear: the more informed and prepared children are, the less likely they will be to run into credit problems, require debt help or face personal bankruptcy when they go out on their own. Conversely, the fears and shame about financial troubles can prevent people from seeking the help they need. There’s no doubt, however, that the effort and time commitment required to complete financial planning with your family can be overwhelming. The success of the process is highly dependent on your persistence and dedication—especially in the case of single parents carrying the education burden alone. Starting out with a high-level FAM to discuss general ideas about budgeting and smart money management can be a good introduction before getting into a more detailed tutorial.

Single parents do not need to tackle this entirely on their own—accessing resources like online tools, including debt repayment calculators, budgeting worksheets and financial monitoring apps like can provide visual aids and interactive inspiration for children and adults. Allow your child to contribute his or her thoughts on family goals—like going on an outing or vacation, or purchasing a new household item—as well as personal desires, like a new pair of shoes or video game. Working towards mutual and clear personal goals can help engage your child in the process. Along the way, and with your help, they will learn that saving money can be as rewarding—or more so—than just saving to spend.

In the long run, you have the opportunity to inspire your child to become financially responsible and literate. An added bonus: kids who feel like a team member and who are participating in achieving larger, mutual goals are more likely to understand your daily responsibilities and recognize your sacrifices and efforts (#CNDFinances). Your FAM dreams and goals such as providing a well-funded post-secondary education might soon become your child’s goals: together you can set up an RESP, and generally control daily or frivolous spending. Ultimately, you might find that in time you hear less complaining about what they don’t have and what they want differently, and instead find yourself in a more cooperative household.

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