Finding the Right Time to Teach Your Children Financial Responsibility
National Financial Literacy Month is on its way, but raising money-smart kids is a year-round job.
The time is always right to teach your children financial responsibility.
Whether you’re looking to build age-appropriate foundational skills, or are preparing your young adult to become financially independent, there are plenty of places, times, and milestones that can help teach your children financial responsibility and bolster their understanding of certain terms and processes.
73% of teenagers polled in 2021 said they wanted to increase their financial literacy, and only 25% of Americans say they have people they can go to for help with their finances. You are in the unique position to be the one that closes this gap in financial literacy in your children to help prepare them for smart money management!
Use Early Education to Your Advantage
As parents, you want to prepare your children for as many things life will throw their way, and often, you want to make sure they are better prepared for life than you were at their age. Active participation in your child’s financial education will not only allow you to support their goals while they are still at home, but also show you where gaps exist between their school curriculum and ‘real life’ concepts.
Set up an environment where financial discussions happen early and often with real-life examples and applications. These can be basic activities like counting, organizing, and grouping objects and teaching them responsibility over their belongings and any money they receive from gifts or chores (where age appropriate). Fostering these discussions early on will allow your child to feel more empowered in their decision-making later in life and comfortable coming to you for help.
Practice! Start Small, Interact Often
One of the best parts about teaching financial preparedness is that there is no right or wrong
time, and it’s never too late to start! Whether you’re playing ‘store’ at home, out shopping for
groceries with the kids, or they have spending opportunities (we’re looking at you, book fairs!) at
school or extracurricular activities, there’s a positive application that can happen.
Fundraisers like cookie, popcorn, or candy sales can help kids learn the process of earning money through selling and learn the satisfaction of earning money while interacting with the public. Have your children help you count money and change, learn what taxes are and how it affects the bottom line of a receipt, and how to check their bank account balance. Many kids receive chores or allowance in the form of deposits onto a debit card, and this is a great way to teach them budgeting skills from an early age!
Cheap or free resources are abundant including toys, activities, and games that help teach
number and money concepts in highly interactive and fun ways. Even board games like
Monopoly or M.A.S.H can help teach concepts such as mortgages, loans, taxes, and debt
As exciting as all these activities might seem to you, remember to carefully gauge your child’s
attentiveness, motivation, and understanding to avoid overwhelming them. If you only spend a
few minutes a week working on number recognition or patiently explaining how much they can
spend on a new toy one weekend, that’s still a great start! In time, you’ll be able to find more
and more opportunities to incorporate stress-free financial literacy activities in natural ways.
Involve Them in Your Financial Milestones
Opportunities to observe can be just as important as those built for interaction. Whether you’re investing in your retirement (opening a Roth IRA/401k), paying off student loans, starting a business, or buying a home, these major life events offer a lot of perspectives. Try to delve into a few examples and the overarching details that we aren’t usually informed about (i.e. the extra costs when buying a home).
Even if your children, or teenager, doesn’t know specific numbers associated with your financial
situation, it’s still crucial to help them understand the importance of each step in large purchases
and what can happen as a result of poor financial planning.
Often, kids don’t receive adequate education on the process and consequences of applying for
student loans or aren’t involved in saving up and purchasing their first car. Have them
participate in these transactions and explain the income needed to afford payments, set up
auto-pay, and what late payments can do to their credit score. This will help them understand
the gravity and importance of smart money management.
The less we know, the more intimidating ‘adulting’ can be for young adults and even well-established adults who didn’t get a strong financial education. Financial stress can be a huge source of anxiety in adults but knowing how big purchases work and the meaning of complicated financial terms can keep unexpected financial events from becoming overwhelming. This teaching process may be stressful for you as you remember how ill-equipped you were starting out, but teaching your kids financial literacy has the potential to be a growing process for both of you! Don’t shy away from concepts you don’t fully understand yourself. Your kids will respect you for saying ‘I don’t know’ and finding the answer together.
Recognizing an Imperfect Process
Mistakes happen. Your kids must have the opportunity to make them at a smaller scale when the stakes are much lower. After all, they have you as an educational and financial net to catch them.
Balancing lessons, failures, and achievements around positive connotations will allow your child to learn that while money isn’t everything, it’s important and that learning can be enjoyable, no matter the subject.
You will set your children up for success long after they enter adulthood with these steps.
- Involve your child in your daily interactions with money.
- Teach your children about budgets.
- Increase their knowledge by teaching them increasingly complex financial concepts as they get older.
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