Here’s the third of four key money phrases your children need know – and should feel comfortable using – when faced with making financial decisions:

3.  I made a mistake

Mistakes are tough to admit and even harder to live with.  Money mistakes that get buried become compounded disasters.  Teach your child that it is only human to make a mistake. And that by admitting to the mistake, you can fix it and learn from it.

Don’t hide it!

Often our kids hide money mistakes.  In college, they are eager to prove they are worthy of the independence. Chances are that will translate into them living beyond their means via credit.

Before they leave for college, tell them that while you believe in them, you anticipate they will make some money mistakes and that you understand that managing money on their own is a learning process – one that will include mistakes.   Advise them that the best way to handle any missteps is to bring money mistakes out in the open right away so they can be fixed and learned from.

Before doing the college “drop-off”

Credit card and checking account offers will be everywhere freshman year.  Marketers are incredibly effective at enticing students with offers of food and clothing as a reward for signing up for their credit or checking offers.  As parents, we have to get out in front of this by going with our kids to learn about one of the offers before we head home after dropping them off at school.  Encourage your child to ask questions about the offers until they understand completely what works and what does not in that offer.  This allows the student to say no with your support. YOUR presence takes the pressure off the student.  Lessons get learned.

Before your kids leave for college, sit down with them to create a budget.  Then, establish a regular time to go over financial accounts with your student. Review any credit or checking accounts with your kids once a month.  It’s easier to clean up problems sooner rather than later – so keep your appointment with your student and teach him or her that mistakes happen –and can be fixed.

Keep financial info protected

Stress the importance of keeping their financial information to themselves and protected. Reviewing statements regularly will pick up any problems as will reminders to them to change passwords to protect their identity from any potential online and offline thieves.

Here are links to Phrase #1: “I don’t know.” and Phrase #2: “I need help.”

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.


  1. Susan Beacham May 29, 2014 at 8:01 am Reply

    Getting great comments on LinkedIn to this phrase. The most recent from Sarah McMurray, Money Coach, “I agree that “I made a mistake” would be a helpful thing for children to hear. I also think that we can all agree that others DO make mistakes. But we’re all so skilled at self-deception, the utterance “I made a mistake” must be one of the least-used phrases on the planet.

    I recommend “Mistakes were made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson for explaining the psychology behind this.”
    Here’s the link to the book Sarah mentions, if you are interested:

  2. Susan Beacham May 29, 2014 at 8:04 am Reply

    Another LinkedIn comment from Pamela Bailey, Storyteller to motivate nonprofits (member of the Financial Literacy & Education group), “Parents rarely like to admit their own mistakes. But by admitting their own, they permission to their kids to do the same.”

  3. Susan Beacham May 29, 2014 at 9:57 am Reply

    One more LinkedIn comment today from Declan Sheehy, Asst. Director at Special Gifts, “Completely agree. I think children emulate their parents behavior, so if parents and teachers practice delayed gratification it will help, the challenge being that more people by age 16 have seen 2 million+ messages promoting instant gratification.”

  4. Susan Wilson June 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm Reply

    I have been looking forward to your next installment, and love your third phrase. Boy, haven’t we all made mistakes. It’s good to share yours, and to encourage your kids to learn from theirs as well. When I was in college, I was too embarrassed to share when I made a mistake, and may not have got the full value of the lesson without input from my parents.

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