How to Teach Your Kids About Money
Sometimes as parents we worry about concocting our own personal lesson plans to teach our children how they can grow up to become responsible adults. When it comes to finances, formal education around interest rates and budgeting are wonderful, but we can teach the basics just by paying attention in our day-to-day lives.
Today we’ll talk to some financially-minded adults about parenting techniques and money lessons centered around earning, saving and giving.
When Amanda Page was in fourth grade, she and her friend had a business idea. They were going to make and sell badges for profit. The only problem? They needed equipment.
Page’s father bought her a Badge-It, which is a toy-like machine that turns the pictures you place or draw on a small, circular piece of paper into a badge. They got the business up and running, but they had to pay her father for the Badge-It before they could keep any of the money they earned.
Page drew two lessons from that experience. First, she learned about startup costs—when it comes to business, it almost always takes money to earn money.
Second, she learned about herself as she and her friend closed up shop not too long after the venture had gotten off the ground.
“I think it was an early peek into how I get super excited about ideas, getting things started and the initial setup,” says Page. “But then sustaining the project is problematic.”
In retrospect, she realizes that her father—who was self-employed—was teaching her a lesson about entrepreneurship and the commitment it takes. Early on, she thought the moral of the story was that she was a better employee than business owner, but as she reflects back she says she thinks her father was more likely trying to teach her about pivoting and growing in a different direction when your initial plan fails to inspire.
Chonce Maddox, owner of My Debt Epiphany, had a rude awakening when she entered the banking system as a young adult. She unknowingly over drafted her account right before she closed it. As she was unaware of the charges, they ended up affecting her credit score.
She decided that she didn’t want her 8-year-old son to have a similar experience. So, one year ago, she took him in to the local credit union to open up a junior savings account. Because he earns a small allowance weekly, he has the opportunity to save regularly.
“He takes his piggy bank to the credit union and deposits his cash. I tell him about how interest works and the importance of saving,” says Maddox, whose son is earning 0.40% on his savings. “He was excited and more attentive to what I was teaching him because we were taking action and experiencing it first-hand.”
With trips to the credit union being a routine part of their lives, Maddox’s son is likely to build a good habit young, internalizing the lesson for use later in life.
When Chris Mamula’s daughter was five, he and his wife decided it was finally time for her first haircut. Their daughter was nervous about the prospect, but the couple made some moves to turn a scary experience into an incredibly rewarding one.
First, Mom said she would get her hair cut, too. Then, they decided they would both donate their locks to a hair replacement charity which benefits children.
“She was initially reluctant to cut off her hair, but the girls at the shop made a big deal out of it and put her before and after picture on the salon's website, which she thought was the coolest thing ever,” says Mamula, an early retiree and writer at Can I Retire Yet? “We also made a big deal about it and emphasized how important it was and how much better it would make someone else feel.”
The five-year-old gleaned inspiration from the experience. She now actively looks for opportunities to give clothes, toys and other goods to those who may not have enough. The Mamulas took something as seemingly routine as a haircut, and turned it into an opportunity to spark a potentially lifelong habit of goodwill.
Give Your Children Hands-On Money Experiences
Page, Maddox’s son and Mamula’s daughter all have something in common: the money lessons that ended up affecting their future behavior were taught with a hands-on approach. Look for opportunities in your family’s day-to-day life to impart meaningful lessons that stick. Experience, after all, is the best teacher.