Know what your kids are up against before you start advising them about money.

From post-secondary education to home ownership, we need to start rethinking our message to reflect the reality that what worked for us may work differently or not at all for our children. Teach your offspring about the world as it is today, not the one you remember when you were younger.

Wednesday is Talk With Our Kids About Money Day, a co-production of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education and Bank of Montreal. Here are seven opening lines for parents who want to talk with their kids about how today’s financial realities put more onus on individuals to make smarter decisions about saving, spending and debt.

1. What you study has a big impact on job opportunities and income

Don’t dictate career options to your kids. Simply make a connection between what they want to study and the related job opportunities in today’s economy. As a journalist who has battled lifelong innumeracy, I can tell you definitively that we’re not all cut out to be engineers and software developers. But we do have to recognize that professions involving math and science offer good employment prospects. If your kids want to study arts or humanities, help them figure out how to make their curriculum relevant to today’s job market.

2. You may have to move back home

It can now be considered normal for kids to move back home after finishing college or university because they don’t have the income needed to move out on their own. The last census showed that 42.3 per cent of young adults age 20 to 29 lived in the parental home. Parents, in your day moving back home was a failure to launch. Today, it’s a practical solution to the difficulties of finding work that pays well.

3. Here’s how we’re willing to support you

In addition to room and board, parental support for adult children these days includes help to repay student loans and gifts of money for a house down payment. Moms and dads might have quietly offered this kind of support in years gone by, but today it’s common. Talk to your kids about what financial help you’re willing to provide, and what the rules will be. For example, you might decide to charge a token amount of rent if they move back home.

4. You don’t have to buy a house

Memo to parents urging their kids to get into the housing market: Dial it down. A lot of young adults are nowhere close to being able to afford a house in a housing market where price increases have run well ahead of income growth. Explain that renting is sensible when you can’t properly afford a home, as long as you have good saving habits. And, please, spare your kids the sales pitch that it’s okay to be a house-poor owner because homes are a great investment. Parents, you got lucky with your homes. Today’s young buyers won’t see the same price appreciation.

5. Be smarter about debt than we were

Low interest rates have warped the thinking of what was once a debt-averse nation. Parents, aim to get your son or daughter back to the old mindset of debt being a sometimes necessary evil. Mortgages are fine, but within reason (use my Real Life Ratio to see whether a mortgage is truly affordable). Loans are also necessary for car purchases, but let’s persuade kids not to make the mistake so many adults are in taking six- and seven-year car loans. Five years, max.

6. If you don’t save, you may never retire

To a far greater extent than previous generations, today’s youth will be responsible for their own retirement savings. The Canada Pension Plan is solid, but the federal government has already adjusted Old Age Security so that today’s kids will collect benefits at 67, not 65.

As for workplace pensions, they’re not often available to the many young people working contract positions today. You either save for retirement as a young person, or you face the prospect of working long past age 65.

7. Big growth is over

Economists have been talking lately about how our aging population will constrain growth in the years ahead.

The upside for parents, with their mortgages and other debts, is that interest rates will remain lower for longer. For young people, this outlook suggests only a mild, gradual improvement in job prospects and income. All the more reason to have a good discussion about the six other topics on this list.

The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Apr. 14 2014, 7:18 PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Apr. 15 2014, 9:29 AM EDT