Growing up with a financial services icon for a father surely gave Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz an inside advantage in learning about money.
After all, she got to constantly "talk to Chuck," as the longtime advertising slogan for Charles Schwab & Co. urges. The real Chuck, Charles R. Schwab: company founder and chairman, pioneer in the discount brokerage business, and Dad.
The funny thing is, though, he didn't discuss money with her much at all or even give her an allowance, his nonetheless-admiring daughter recalls.
"He should have talked more," says Schwab-Pomerantz, a senior vice president at Schwab and prominent advocate for financial literacy.
Schwab did instill in her the importance of saving and having a strong work ethic. Those are both part of the foundation of financial awareness she says is essential to achieving a secure retirement.
A certified financial planner in her own right, Schwab-Pomerantz is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, which aims to help individuals and families achieve financial well-being.
She also serves on the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability and, with her father, co-authored the book "It Pays to Talk: How to Have the Essential Conversations With Your Family About Money and Investing." She and her husband, author Gary Pomerantz, have three children and live in the San Francisco Bay area.
>Q: Everyone seems to agree that financial literacy in this country is lagging. What can be done about it?
A: I wish Congress would simplify all the choices people face for saving for retirement. One thing the president's council is looking at is having one IRA from birth that would be your savings account for retirement for the rest of your life. That promotes being involved with your money, and saving, and getting interested and knowledgeable about it.
In the meantime, we have to educate ourselves. Unfortunately, financial principles aren't taught in schools.
>Q: So how do parents educate their kids about money?
A: I'm a big believer in starting to teach your kids when they're young. Give them an allowance, get them to save at an early age and have them get jobs when they're a little older. Kids who work are much more likely to be stellar savers. And start talking to them about retirement, even though it's "boring."
I also think it's a good idea to get them a credit card when they're about 16 and have them practice paying it off on a monthly basis.
>Q: What did you do with your own children (now 23, 20 and 15)?
A: I made them all get jobs. We're such a wealthy society that we spoil our kids. One of my kids' friends' parents didn't want him to get a job if it was menial. Meanwhile, my son was a bagger at a grocery store. He was humiliated, but ... we were so proud of him.
>Q: What are the biggest mistakes in retirement planning?
A: Not being well-informed and starting to save too late. The earlier you start, the easier it is to build that nest egg.