Gail Hillebrand of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says high school is too late to start talking to kids about financial literacy. (WashingtonPostLive Production/Washington Post Live)

This is part of the Post Live panel discussion ‘Kitchen Table Economics,’ held April 16 at The Washington Post. View other videos from the discussion here.

Gail Hillebrand

Associate director of consumer education and engagement,

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

One of the big things for kids to learn is, is it something I need or something I want, and is this something as a family we need or we want?

Gail Hillebrand of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers urges family to fill out the FAFSA and max out on federal loans before taking out private loans. (WashingtonPostLive Production/Washington Post Live)

Because it turns out all that conversation you heard on the first panel about “pay yourself first” is partly about being able to distinguish between the things we’ve got to have for our family and the things we’d really like to have and we’re going to work toward. If we can teach kids that one thing — that you can get there from here if you plan ahead, that you can control your own financial life, it doesn’t have to control you — we will have given them a very good start toward adulthood.

We talk to our kids about money.

Maybe your kid isn’t going to save for retirement when he’s 18, although you hope he will if he has his first job. But maybe he is 14 and he wants to save up for that cellphone. You’re going to say, you save half and I’ll pay the other half (if your family finances allow it). A lot of folks talk about very young kids, giving them a jar. They can see it. They can touch it; one for now, one for later. Later is savings.

And have your kids saving for something they actually want as opposed to something you think they should want.