By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – How honest do we need to be with our kids when it comes to our money? It’s a question debated by Minnesota families every day.

A new book goes as far as saying parents shouldn’t hold back anything.  In fact, in “The Opposite of Spoiled” Ron Lieber suggests we even let our kids know how much money we make.

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Lieber says his tips will lead to more generous and less materialistic children.

WCCO went to the bank with one family to put that kind of transparency to the test.

As parents tend to do, Bethany Fischer passed on the life lessons early.

“I just think as soon as they can understand the concept of money, they should learn what it’s used for and how it should be saved,” Fischer said.

Money advice has always been a top priority.

“I think it’s our job as parents to teach that to our children, so they can be responsible adults,” Fischer said.

Bethany believes most parents aren’t honest with their kids about money because they aren’t with themselves.  Too many live beyond their means.

It’s why it doesn’t bother her a bit if her kids know she makes $3,000 a month.

“Right here is $3,000,” she said, pointing to the money in her hand.

“I think it sure looks like a lot, and it goes very quickly,” she added.

We listened in as she showed 10-year-old Angelina and 7-year-old Collin where it all goes.

“That’s $1,100,” Collin said. “That’s a lot of money.”

“That is a lot of money, but it goes to only pay one bill, and that’s rent,” Fischer told her kids.

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A professor at the University of Minnesota, Joyce Serido researches financial stress.

She doesn’t think the figure should be the focus of telling kids how much we make.

“How much does it cost to live this life that we’re living?” Fischer said. “Now you’re starting to get to something that connects, helping your kids understand how to allocate their money or use their money wisely — that’s the powerful part of the lesson.”

Serido said we shouldn’t overwhelm children with too much information. Instead, we should wait for teachable moments.

“Use the experiences they’re living to make the point,” Serido said.

Financial Advisor Nicole Middendorf believes kids should know the difference between wants and needs.

“You really want to set your values as a family and make sure you’re discussing that with your kids,” Middendorf said.

She sees the biggest problems as coming when parents think they’re protecting their kids and don’t want them to worry about money.

“If you’re not having the conversation with your kids about money, what happens is they get into a lot of credit card debt or they make really poor decisions,” she added.

Our experts agree parents play the biggest part in a child’s financial future and that it’s not what you make but what you spend that matters more.

So, what some might consider an extreme budget lesson, Bethany thinks is a dose of reality that doesn’t take long to learn.

“Yeah I guess it is a lot, but it goes away really fast,” 10-year-old Angelina said.

Sound familiar?

They’re absolutely listening, yes,” Bethany said.

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Both of Liz’s money experts suggest using allowance as a budget teaching tool.  They say introducing a weekly or monthly allowance for kids as young as three or four can pay off.

Liz Collin