Hey, internet: Remember millennials? Many of us have graduated from our lattes and leisurely brunches to become parents with jobs, car loans and perhaps even a mortgage.
On our road to adulthood, we've experienced two global crises — a recession and a pandemic. Many of us are also still carrying mountains of student debt. These years have shaped our outlook on money, and now we're teaching our kids what we know.
Here are the money lessons five millennial parents around the country want their children to learn (answers have been edited for length and clarity):
Your child is never too young to learn.
Laurynn Vaughn, 37, of Kissimmee, Fla., is a single parent to two daughters, ages 5 and 4. She runs a day care that closed during the pandemic but has since reopened. She is an active volunteer.
"I don't want to pass on the fact that I was not taught about money. ... My principles are a little different, there's really four: I pay bills, then I give, I save and have money left over to enjoy. Teaching them at their level is better than not teaching them because you're waiting for them to get to a level."
Be a working student and leave college with less debt.
Mae Waugh Barrios, 34, of Holliston, Mass., has three children, ages 10, 4 and 2. She is an instructional coach for middle school and is on an unpaid leave of absence to look after her children during the pandemic. Her husband, Francisco, runs a landscaping business. She has $20,000 in student loans left to pay off.
"That was the biggest mistake I made in my whole life. Everyone said, 'Go to whatever college you want, just take the loans.' Nobody told me the real after-effects of student loans. My husband didn't go to college. Our plan is to open a college savings account for [our children] when I go back to work. It's [also] better to be a working student and leave college with much less debt. ... We talk a lot at the dinner table about being rich and being poor. If you are rich, your money works for you. If you are poor, you work for money."
Give less stuff and more experiences.
Steffa Mantilla, 36, of Houston has a 4-year-old son. She is a certified financial education instructor, a former zookeeper and founder of a personal finance website.
"In our household, we're putting a greater emphasis on 'experiences' rather than 'things.' Instead of buying tons of [birthday] presents, we'll buy one present and then tickets to the children's museum or local zoo. We encourage relatives to give gifts of experience, as well, that they can do together. This puts the focus on family and friends while also teaching him to live with less stuff around."
Don't be afraid to invest.
Alan LaFrance, 37, of Austin, Texas, has a 5-year-old son. He works in digital marketing and his wife, Meladee, is a respiratory therapist.
"You could pay for a car in cash, but you could [get] a loan for that car and take that capital and invest it. If you can make more with that money, you're in a much better situation overall. At some point you can't just squirrel everything away, you have to start letting the money work for you. As parents, we want our kids to save, but in reality, you can do that too much and really miss out on a lot of opportunity."
Build another income stream.
Jernessa Jones, 39, of Florence, Ala., is a single parent to a 6-year-old son and is an accredited financial counselor at Operation Hope, a financial literacy nonprofit. She graduated from an MBA program during the pandemic, bought a house and started a fashion accessory business.
"My mom and dad didn't own a business and neither were homeowners. I was looking for houses last year because homeownership is the first step to building generational wealth. I realized I could afford the mortgages for some of the houses I looked at, but I'd probably be house poor. I decided to step back and see what I could do to build another stream of income. Entrepreneurship was another thing I could teach my son about. From beginning to end, even when I opened my business bank account, he was there."
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website nerdwallet.