By Kimberly Yee
April is Financial Literacy Month – a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of wise money management. Being smart about handling finances is more important than ever, as families experience higher prices from groceries to gasoline.
As Arizona’s Treasurer, it has been my priority to provide families the information they need to create a solid foundation for financial wellness which positively affects the fiscal health of the State of Arizona and our children’s future.
During work hours at the State Capitol, people address me as “Madam Treasurer,” but when I am at home, my young children call me “Mom.” In both roles, I press hard on the message of being smart about managing money and believe it’s important that parents teach this important life skill early on, especially when it comes to savings.
A few years ago, I created the state’s first-ever Financial Literacy Task Force which has been hard at work to provide free financial education resources to students, senior citizens, military families, veterans and vulnerable families. We created a law requiring students to have financial education before graduating from high school so they are prepared before going out into the real world.
Why is financial education so important right now? Americans’ total credit card balances reached $986 billion. Student loan debt is over $1.75 trillion. It is essential that our youth understand basic money management and don’t fall into the dangerous cycle of debt.
Teaching your children to be savers, not spenders.
The earlier a child understands the basic concepts of money management, the more likely they’ll be able to engrain long lasting behaviors. Reports indicate a child’s saving and spending habits are established at an early age, even as early as preschool. Here are seven practical tips to help you teach your children different concepts about money management and the life skill of saving their money.
- Walk the talk.
Talk about what you are saving for and what sacrifices you make for vacations, their college and retirement, then demonstrate examples with them. Take your kids with you to the bank when you make a deposit or show them how you do it on your phone or laptop for online banking. You can also save for something together as a family and show them how you are setting aside money. When it is time to make that purchase, they will have “buy-in” because they experienced the saving, the waiting and the expenditure with you.
- Earn it.
I am a big proponent of encouraging children to earn their own money, from doing chores to paying a child to complete a project. This helps them learn at an early age that it takes work and effort to earn money, and that money shouldn’t be a hand out. When children start earning their own money, they can appreciate and be good stewards of those funds. While encouraging children to “earn” their money, they must also “learn” about basic money tips such as saving and spending.
- Match it.
Reward your child’s good saving habits by matching their savings and encouraging them to delay gratification by saving for something they really want, which could take months. Set a time frame for how long they can save their money and then consider matching the amount if they reach their goals. This teaches your child the basic skills of compound interest, growing money with savings, and the concepts of long term investing.
- Make it fun.
Conversations with children about money should be fun, light and not intimidating. Create an activity that can be hands-on, like crafts or a game. For instance, go to a pottery painting shop to help them paint their own piggy bank. This would be the perfect time to talk about dream jobs and how to prepare and save to get there. If your child likes video games, look online for free financial literacy games. There are tons of different free games for kids that will keep them engaged while having fun!
- Work for it.
The idea of earning money can go beyond the walls of your home. For instance, organize with a family member like an aunt, uncle or grandparent how your child can work for some extra cash. Children may enjoy pet sitting or yard work like mowing a lawn or helping with household tasks. Pre-teens can start babysitting for family friends and teenagers can look for work in retail or as lifeguards at neighborhood pools. Help them learn the important concept of working for their money.
- Celebrate success.
Track results and share the progress of a goal with your child to help motivate them. This can be done by encouraging them to improve in an area of their academic studies or helping them save for a big item, like a toy, a trip or for teenagers…a car. Help them know your expectations for their future such as what it might take to get to their goal. Make a chart and when they reach a milestone, find a way to celebrate reaching that goal. This creates a positive learning experience between you and your child, and paves the path together to save money.
- Jump start college and career savings.
Give children a boost with saving for their future education by setting-up a tax-deductible AZ529 Education Savings Plan. Contributions from parents, grandparents, relatives and family friends provide a jump-start for loved ones and inspires them to contribute as well.
The AZ529, Arizona’s Education Savings Plan, is a state-sponsored education savings plan where earnings grow tax-free. For those who invest in an AZ529 Plan, the State of Arizona offers a state tax deduction up to $2,000 per beneficiary for individual tax filers and up to $4,000 per beneficiary for married tax filers who file a joint return. Qualified educational expenses include tuition and fees, books, computers and room and board. Additionally, friends and family members may add to a child’s AZ529 account at any time through gifting and earn the same tax benefits for themselves. Also, starting in 2024, any savings that are left over in a child’s 529 account can be rolled over into a Roth-IRA to help them save for their future retirement. For more information about AZ529, visit www.az529.gov.
Make the most of Financial Literacy Month
Children who grow up with a good understanding about money and healthy saving and spending habits will grow into adults who are less likely to get into debt and they will be able to stand firmly on a foundation that allows them to achieve financial freedom.
During my first term as Treasurer, I launched the Financial Education Portal on the Arizona Treasurer’s Office website. I invite Arizonans to explore these helpful resources and tools available through this portal to grow a deeper understanding about personal finance and the value of saving. There are games for children of all ages, resources on retirement savings, information on managing debt, benefits for senior citizens and much more.
Making smart, informed financial and economic decisions will position Arizonans to achieve financial freedom and success. For more information or to access the Financial Education Portal, please visit: aztreasury.gov/financial-education.
In honor of Financial Literacy Month, I encourage every parent to do their best to help children develop a good relationship with money management. It is also the perfect time for adults to examine their own personal financial resiliency. How can we better manage our money? What short and long-term savings goals should we set? Are we financially prepared for future, unexpected emergencies? Financial literacy strengthens not only individuals and families, but also the overall economic health of our communities.
Kimberly Yee is the State Treasurer of Arizona. She oversees the cash management of Arizona’s $40 billion state budget and payments to agencies, local governments and schools and manages $31.49 billion in assets under management. Treasurer Yee is also the Administrator of the AZ529, Arizona’s Education Savings Plan.