In most households, it doesn’t take long for children to learn money is important. They witness parents, siblings and others talking about money, spending money or sometimes even arguing about money. To truly understand the value of money, though, it’s important for parents to take a proactive, hands-on approach to teaching children.
Wise financial planning encourages wise spending and saving for the future. Learning smart spending habits can have a profound impact on a young child’s life. The financial lessons children learn today will last well into adulthood.
In an article for The New York Times, John Lanza, founder of themoneymammals.com, recommends teaching children three basic principles for handling money: save, share and spend. New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber advocates a similar system.
Whether children earn their money or are given an allowance, it is appropriate for parents to require them to save a portion. Instead of putting money in a piggy bank, Lieber suggests parents provide a clear container of some sort so children can easily watch the growth of their savings.
Because saving is difficult for children, money expert Madison DuPaix says parents can help by offering incentives. For example, they might agree to match all or a portion of the money children agree to put away. She notes parents can set an example by keeping some of their savings where children can see them contribute.
Teaching children to be generous with money begins once they have learned to share other things: toys, games, food, etc. Once the basic concept is learned, parents can expand the concept of sharing to include money and even time.
As with most lessons, parents can teach this best by example. As they talk with their children about sharing and helping others who are less fortunate, they can explain exactly what they are doing to make a difference and encourage their children to participate as well.
For example, locally, parents might donate to Child Crisis Arizona, a nonprofit organization working with more than 8,000 struggling children and families. The agency provides a range of service to underprivileged families in this area, including emergency shelter, foster care and adoption services, an early preschool, education and support training for families and more.
Children and adults like to spend money. The key principle to teach is to spend it wisely. Moneymanagement.org suggests always shopping with a list to help children learn to plan for expenses and to avoid impulse buying. Teaching children to shop by value and not by brand trains them to make their money go further.
Children also need to learn the difference between wants and needs. If they have been saving and planning to buy a specific item but they get distracted by something they see in an advertisement or in a store, parents can help them stay focused on the original goal. Kara Gammell, writing for The Guardian, cautioned against telling children they can’t afford something as an excuse to keep them from buying it. Instead, parents should explain that they choose to spend their money differently.
There are many resources to help parents teach their children about money. Moneyinstructor.com, for example, breaks everything down by age and grade level and offers lesson plans and worksheets. What is most important is to start early to communicate with children about money and to continue the conversation, as they grow older.
About Canyon State Credit Union: Canyon State Credit Union has served the people of Arizona for more than 60 years, and is open for membership from anyone who lives, works, or worships in a number of zip codes within Arizona, as well as anyone who works for the credit union’s designated Select Employee Groups (SEGs). Their tagline at Canyon State is Committed To YOU™. It’s not just a saying they take lightly, it’s a promise they make to provide members with the best products and services possible.