We tend to think of parenthood as an 18-year experience; at the end, the kids leave the nest, we congratulate ourselves for a job well done, and we’re finished teaching and raising them. Right?

Well… Not exactly. Just ask anyone whose college graduate has now moved back home, due to high rent or other life circumstances! Most parents find that their jobs are never really “done”, but that the job description simply shifts with time.

That’s definitely the case with regard to financial planning. We’ve long known that the financial decisions of parents influence their children’s own decisions well into adulthood. Now, a study by TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America) has examined how parents’ retirement planning decisions help to shape the way millenials think about, and plan for, their own retirement years.

In many cases, parents have led by setting a “bad” example! Millennial respondents reported learning from their parents’ mistakes, with 61 percent saying they will take a different approach to financial planning in order to avoid the same blunders. About half say they avoid significant debt, while 38 percent are consciously limiting their spending.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to make mistakes in order to help your kids learn! If we examine these situations more closely, millenials who avoid making mistakes (such as taking on high debt loads) are often following the regretful lessons their parents have communicated to them. Meanwhile, those who are enjoying stable finances in retirement often share their wisdom with adult children, who then mimic the behavior.

In other words, it is communication that is the key here. If you’ve made mistakes, share those with your kids. But if you’ve been successful at financial planning, share that too. The important thing here is to teach by example, and you can do that in numerous ways. Just keep the lines of communication open.

We can help with that, too. Refer your adult children to us as they begin planning for their own retirements, and we can help them carry on a family tradition of wise preparation for the future.