By Kerrie McLoughlin
When I was a kid I thought that just because there were checks in my parents’ checkbook, there was plenty of money in the bank. How many kids these days think whipping out a credit card is the way to pay for items – any items – no matter the cost? I don’t want my own kids to be fiscal failures or money misfits. As parents, we have a special opportunity to teach our kids about money … and how they can handle it responsibly so they stay out of debt down the road and know how to save for their future needs and wants.
Saving money. The elementary-age crowd is eager to soak up information about money as they are tiny consumers. Start with a simple piggy bank for very young kids and teach about saving money in the piggy bank until they have saved enough money to buy something special. For preschoolers, this may be a small toy. For older kids, they may keep their saved money in a wallet and eventually spend it on something like a nice doll outfit, a LEGO set or a Nerf gun.
The allowance issue: yes or no? Some argue that allowance should not be paid, as children should be members of a family and contribute to the work in that family for free. Others, however, believe that allowance is a great tool for teaching children about money and how to handle it. Consider setting up a chore chart and giving a weekly allowance depending upon the age of the child. Then, have your child split their weekly earnings three ways: save, give and spend. This process teaches great lessons about saving for the future, giving to charity and holding onto some money for fun. Handling money is all about balance, after all; instead of going to extremes like spending into bankruptcy or being so tight with a dollar that nothing fun ever has money spent on it.
Go out and see it. A field trip to a bank or credit union is a great way for kids to get a feel for how money moves through the system. They also learn about concepts such as interest, loans, debit versus credit cards, among other things. Often, they can even bring their change to process in a coin machine to turn into paper money. This is a good opportunity to have your children open up a savings account. Teach them that savings is a special kind of money that is only taken out for emergencies and is ideally saved for the future (college, a wedding, starting a business, a car, etc.).
Let them watch you. Older kids can benefit greatly by watching you balance your checkbook on a monthly basis, if you still do it that way, and they can even help out with supervision. Much banking is done online these days, but it’s still important to keep up with accounts, and your kids need to know that, also. Helping you with the monthly budget set up and subsequent bill-paying process is also something most kids don’t get to see. Budgeting is such an important tool in avoiding debt that is imperative we teach this to our children when they are young! The site MomsBudget.com has some fun budgeting and allowance printables for kids that come in different colors.
Finally, lead by example. Obviously you need to practice what you preach as far as financial matters go or your kids just won’t grasp what you’re trying to teach them. If you’re telling them to give one-third of their allowance to charity but you don’t give a cent, what do they take away from that? If you tell them debt is bad but dig the credit card out of your file cabinet when a “great deal” on a massive-screen TV comes into play, your kids won’t learn about saving for items they really want.
You don’t have to be Dave Ramsey to raise fiscally friendly kids. If you are savvy with money, it will be pretty simply to get your kids on board. If not, then teaching your kids some of these principles will help you get financially fit as well!
Kerrie McLoughlin is the homeschooling mom of five financially savvy kids and shares their journey at FrugaliciousFamilyFun.com.