Press release: Encouraging children and parents to 'talk money' can improve parents' debt levels (updated)

Monday 1 October 2018

A pilot course to help parents teach their children about money also improved parents’ finances

· After 12 months, there was a 15 percentage point decrease in the number of overindebted1 parents

· The course, which was only two hours long, had long-term positive impacts on both children and parents’ money habits

· Simple money games, shop play and going shopping with your children could help their long term financial wellbeing

· The Money Advice Service has made the course content available for parents with children aged 3-11 so you too can improve your children’s money skills. For more information visit

Parents involved in a first of its kind course to improve their children’s money skills also saw improvements in their own personal finances after 12 months, according to new analysis.

Researchers found that there was a 15 percentage point decrease2 in the number of overindebted parents a year after taking a Talk, Learn, Do (TLD) module – an interactive group session for parents piloted in Wales in 2016 by the Money Advice Service.

The two-hour course, undertaken as part of the Family Links Nurturing Programme and Incredible Years parenting programmes, aimed to encourage parents of 3-11 year olds to talk to their children about money and create opportunities for their children to experience managing it, and resulted in many positive benefits.

The analysis of the pilot, which was co-funded by Big Lottery Wales, determined the impact of the module by comparing parents who had taken part in the TLD session with a control group of parents who had only taken the regular parenting course. Overall the project was successful in improving parents’ knowledge on how to talk to their children about money – after 12 months the study found there was a 14 percentage point change.

Researchers believe that the unexpected benefit to parents’ own finances is likely to result from the course encouraging parents to be more open about household spending and debt. One couple who took part in the session described it as a ‘reality check’ that helped them face up to their growing level of credit card debt, which was in the tens of thousands of pounds.

There was also a 7 percentage point increase in parents giving their children pocket money, which is a good way to introduce them into the world of personal finance. This builds on the Money Advice Service’s previous research, which has shown a strong link between children receiving regular money, including pocket money, and better financial habits3. Interestingly the research finds that even giving very small amounts of money can make big improvements to children’s financial behaviour, suggesting that it is having responsibility for money that is important, not the amount.

The pilot had a number of positive impacts on children, including helping them to save. There was a 10 percentage point increase in parents saying that their child was able to save money for a short period of time for something they wanted. A previous study by the Money Advice Service and the University of Cambridge found that adult money habits and skills start to be formed between the ages of three and seven, which underlines the importance of getting children to handle and engage with money at a young age4.

Other positive results of the course included helping children’s financial comprehension and decision-making.

There was an increase of parents (by 19 percentage points) who reported that their child was able to recognise the difference between something they want, like a toy, and something they need, like food. Additionally, there was a 14 percentage point increase in those that believe their child could understand why they were saying no to buying a certain item – reducing the negative influence ‘pester power’ can have on parents.

TV advertising has been criticised for targeting children with unhealthy products5 yet the study showed the positive effects on parents speaking with children about the power of advertising. After taking the two-hour course, the number of parents saying they never talk to their children about how companies try to sell them products through adverts dropped by 14 percentage points - meaning that more now talk to their children about advertising.

Ann Griffiths, Senior Policy Manager from the Money Advice service commented: “We’re delighted with the findings of Talk, Learn, Do. Results suggest that not only has it helped parents teach their children about money, it’s helped them with their own finances as well.

“We were really pleased to see more parents giving children pocket money. We know that it doesn’t matter how much they get – what matters is that children have some responsibility for making choices with money. Giving a little bit of pocket money, involving children in food shopping choices, discussing bills out in the open, and showing children money tasks like checking a bank balance – these are simple things parents can do that really make a difference.”

Sarah Porretta, UK Financial Capability Director at the Money Advice Service, said: “The results from the study are really positive. It proves that earlier really is better when it comes to introducing your children to money.

“It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to be a financial whiz to help them on the path to success. In fact, you can teach children a lot through everyday activities. Get them to help you making shopping lists, or involve them in household budgeting – and don’t think you have to shelter them from conversations about money.

“Children can start learning about money from as early as the age of three. And a lot of the money habits they will need as adults have already started to develop by the age of seven. But they can also pick up new skills as they get older too, so it’s never too late to help them.”

In addition to the successful results for parents and children, trainers who delivered the session were overwhelmingly positive – 92% would recommend the module to other trainers. As a result, the Money Advice Service is seeking partners to help test the course in other contexts and explore rolling it out across the rest of the UK.

Inspired by Talk, Learn, Do course content, here are five easy ways to get young children thinking about money:

Through Play

For younger children, play is a great way to keep talking about money fun and engaging. For example, children love playing shop. So why not make it as real as possible, adding price tags to items to show that things cost money. Start by showing them the difference between coins and how many you need to buy an item. Explain that two 1p coins equal a 2p coin and how that can be used to buy something they want. One of the benefits of using real coins is that it helps children get used to handling money in everyday situations. You can also use this as an opportunity to explain that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ – and when it’s gone, they have to save up to get more.

Around the Home

If your children are watching television, watch it with them and use the opportunity to introduce them to money topics. Be open and frank. Explain to them how adverts try to get them to buy things. If your children have some of their own money to look after, think about having a safe place for your child to keep money like a moneybox or piggy bank. And don’t forget to talk about why it’s important to keep money safe. For older children, you can talk about bills, budgeting and where money goes – or why not ask them to help you find the best price by comparing prices in shops or online?

Out and About

Being out in the ‘real-world’ is a great place to give your children hands-on practical experience. For example, the next time you are in the supermarket, let your children pay. It’s also good to give your child a small amount of money to buy something they want. Help them see what they can afford, show them how to pay and how to check the change. Children also love a challenge – can they help you save money? Make a list with them and have them help you stick to it.

Give pocket money

Pocket money is a great way to give children responsibility for money. The amount you give doesn’t matter – even the smallest amount of pocket money can help children learn how to manage money. Parents can decide whether pocket money is given in exchange for doing chores at home, or whether children are given an allowance each week – the main thing is that they get a chance to practice with their own money.

5. Dealing with ‘pester power’

It can be difficult dealing with children who set their minds on having something. But there are ways to make it less stressful. For example, you can make a list before you go out shopping. Let your children help with this list and explain the importance of sticking to it when out and about. Try to plan ahead for tricky places like toy shops and agree what you’re buying beforehand. Finally, remember that it’s perfectly okay to say no to your children when they ask for things. Just make sure you explain why – take this as an opportunity to teach them that we have money for our needs (like food, heating, our house) but not always for our wants (like sweets or toys).

- ENDS -


1The report uses the Money Advice Service measure of overindebtedness. Parents were classed as overindebtedness if they reported that keeping up with bills and credit commitments was a heavy burden, or that they had fallen behind on, or missed, any payments for credit commitments or domestic bills for at least three of the last six months

2 Throughout this press release, each of the highlighted figures indicate the statistically significant difference between the TLD group and the control group after 12 months

3 Money Advice Service; Griffiths, A. and Ghezelayagh, S. (2018) “Children and Young People and Financial Capability: Needs Analysis

4 Money Advice Service: Adult money habits are set by the age of seven years old shows new study

5 BBC: Children ‘bombarded by junk food’ ads on family shows

For media enquiries contact:

· Ione Gyamfi on 0207 943 0593

· Dan Thompson at Third City on 0203 657 9773


The impact evaluation aimed to measure the impact of the Talk, Learn, Do module on parents’ attitudes and behaviours by comparing any differences in the levels of change in views of parents who attended a TLD module with a similar group of parents who attended the parenting programme but did not attend a TLD module (the ‘control group’). Attendees were surveyed at the start of the programme, 6 months after it finished and 12 months after it finished. Extended qualitative interviews were also conducted.

The figures used throughout this press release are the statistically significant difference between the TLD group and control group after 12 months: A total of 268 parents completed both the pre-survey and 12-month survey – 138 interviews were with the TLD group, and 130 with the control group.

This is version 2 of the Talk, Learn, Do press release. Further analysis by IFF Research following publication identified an error in the figure concerning the proportion of parents giving pocket money (previously 13 percentage points rather than 7) and this has now been corrected in the latest version.