It’s true that kids should be kids. Childhood, after all, is a carefree period of one’s life without much responsibility, including financial ones. But even though kids aren’t on the hook for paying the mortgage or grocery shopping, it’s important to plant the “financial literacy” seed when they’re young. This provides a great foundation for smart money decisions down the road. For example, simple concepts (i.e. saving your money or living within your means) help kids eventually understand how to try to avoid debt. Although gaining complete financial literacy is a gradual process, getting started is the most important move. Take these first steps on how to teach your kids about money.
Teach Them The Core Concepts (By Age Group)
Different age brackets call for different types of lessons. Let’s take a walk through each of them.
K – 2 Age Range
The first thing a person should know about money is that it comes from work, and that everyone only has a limited amount of it. In the children’s novel, “Double Fudge” by Judy Blume, when 5 year old Fudge is shopping for shoes with his mother, he gets upset when she can’t buy him two pairs of sneakers. He asks his mother why she can’t just go to the ATM for more money, and she has to explain that it doesn’t spit out money just because you want it.
Once your child understands that money (sadly) doesn’t just come out of thin air, you can teach them the concept of working for their money. For example, they can do chores around the house in exchange for a few dollars or whatever price you see fit. Just make sure to clearly outline which chore is pay-worthy and which ones are basic, expected responsibilities. After they earn their money, the next concept is teaching them to keep their money in a bank. This could be a physical piggy bank in their room, or if you want to expose them to “real-world” banking, you can open a savings account for them.
Grades 3 – 6
By now, your child is probably more interested in buying things to enjoy for themselves. From video games to clothing from specific brands, the list goes on. But before that list gets too long, remind them to make smart choices with their finite amount of money. That’s where saving and planning comes into play. Have your kids make a list of what they need or want, then let them rank these items based on importance. Then, take their lists and show them the estimated costs of each item. Seeing the numbers on paper will help them make smart choices, and teach them the importance of setting a goal with savings. It’s a great concrete way of how to teach your kids about money.
Grades 7 – 12
It’s time to introduce the concept of credit cards. They’re convenient, but they can also wreak havoc on your finances if you don’t understand the terms and conditions that come with them. You also have to remember payment due dates. To give kids under the age of 18 a basic understanding of how credit works, they can practice using credit by borrowing money from their parents. You can set up a limit, repayment terms and a standard interest rate to familiarize them with what comes with a credit card. If they miss a payment, charge them a small fee. Yes, you might hear some grumbling at first, but they’ll learn the cost of credit and instills the habit of paying on time. Furthermore, this helps them learn the basics of credit before mistakes can harm their credit report and score.
Look for Engaging Resources
Money and finances might not be the most riveting topic for some kids. But with the plethora of children’s financial literacy resources out there, you can absolutely reach them. From fun videos featuring your child’s favorite character to books with all kinds of plots, your children will learn important money lessons in an enjoyable, engaging way.
For older children and teenagers, they’re probably thinking about having a bank account and saving and earning money for college. Do some research with your child to help them understand the tips and options available to them, such as minimizing costs or possibly getting a scholarship. If your child will need a loan for college, learn how to create a detailed repayment plan. It’s definitely important to have fun in college, but it’s also important to have a handle on financial literacy before possibly making stressful errors.
Whatever their age, it’s never too early or late to start a conversation about financial literacy with your kids. It’s a good move to learn how to teach your kids about money. Opening the dialogue today makes it easier for them to figure out their finances tomorrow.