When Don Phillips, a managing director of Morningstar Inc., was 13 his father bought him 100 shares in a mutual fund. It was Phillips' first investment. And though not the most exciting gift at the time, it became invaluable to him.
"My dad sat me down and explained what a mutual fund is," he said. "But more importantly, I saw that investing was something he did and that it was part of being a responsible adult."
Parents teach us a lot about money management, even if we never discuss with them the finer points of investing. In fact, many financial skills you learn as a child are picked up through watching (and then mimicking) your parents' example.
But today there's concern brewing that young adults haven't received the right message.
For instance, a survey last month by the Charles Schwab Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the financial-services company, found that 31 percent of people ages 13 to 18 already carry some type of debt, either to a person or a company.
"Many young adults today have grown up in an environment of access," said Shawn Parker, a senior financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial. "Their parents, as a generation, were not good savers."
Ameriprise recently surveyed retirees and near-retirees and found that more than half say finding help to educate their adult children about money is a top priority.
Mom and Dad can't be solely to blame for the poor money habits you and I may have developed. But if mistakes were made, here's how to learn from them.
Think of money memories. Because financial education is subtle, you may not be able to pinpoint why you're lousy at budgeting or why you dread investing in anything riskier than a U.S. Treasury bond.
So Eileen and Jon Gallo, authors of The Financially Intelligent Parent: 8 Steps to Raising Successful, Generous, Responsible Children (NAL Trade, $12.95), suggest thinking of three childhood memories related to money.
And then ask yourself, "Is this the approach to money that I want?"
Find a mentor. In some cases, despite your parents' best intentions, you'll have to seek advice from a different source.
And a professional adviser, such as a fee-only planner, is always an option and a good idea when your financial situation starts to become complex.
Carolyn Bigda writes for Tribune Media Services.