MintFamily with Beth Kobliner: Do Family Dinners Improve Your Finances?

Family Finances

We’ve heard it a million times: Sitting down for a family meal is good for us. Studies show it keeps us connected, instills healthy eating habits, and even helps our kids get better grades. But here’s a new twist: It can make you wealthier.

It’s true: A soon-to-be-released study from professors at the University of Georgia looked at 8,000 families over the course of a decade, and found that those who ate together at least four times a week were more likely to be financially secure. (Hat tip to Squared Away, a blog from the Financial Security Project at Boston College.)

As someone who loves encouraging parents to talk to kids about money, I thought for sure the reason would be that during dinner, kids overhear Mom and Dad discussing the family’s finances (paying for a vacation, the latest credit card bill, etc.), and that kids have an opportunity to ask questions about money. I still believe that’s true—but the study’s findings are a little different.

The families in the study who dined together may or may not have discussed money at all. Instead, the study points to their one common trait: self-regulation. In plain English, that means they excel at establishing good habits and sticking to them. While that may sound like psychobabble to you, it makes perfect sense: If you’re able to prioritize family meals (while balancing work, school, and all the other life demands), you’re probably able to prioritize making smart financial decisions.

But if you’re not the dinner-on-the-table-at-7-every-night kind of parent (and trust me, as a mom of three kids, including two teens, I know it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s crazy schedules), all hope is not lost. The study notes that self-regulation is like a muscle. And like any other muscle, you can strengthen it with exercise. Your assignment: Try committing to some healthy routines, like aiming for at least two family meals a week to start. I’m sensing a reality show in the making: “The Biggest Saver,” anyone?

Do you gather regularly for family meals? How has it helped your family—and your finances?

© 2012 Beth Kobliner, All Rights Reserved

Beth Kobliner is a personal finance commentator and journalist, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Visit her at, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.

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