Part of bringing up children today is giving them all the tools they need to survive and do well in the world and environment in which they live. In the United States today, that means helping them understand the value of and the concepts of earning, using, saving and investing money.
Parents neglect to teach children about money for several reasons. Sometimes they don’t think it’s necessary. Sometimes they feel that, since they are not “financial experts,” they are not qualified to discuss it.
Whether we like it or not, money is central to the lives of people in our country today. Therefore, it’s our responsibility as parents to give our children the basic understanding they need. That’s easier than you might think because, whether you realize it or not, you already have all the information that you’ll need.
Looking ahead and planning for later, not just thinking about “now,” is a sign of maturity. Explain to your children that just as an ant spends the summer putting away food for the winter, people need to put away some of the money they have now to save it for later. Saving can mean putting away a little money each week to pay for a large ticket item (bicycle, computer, CD player) or so that they will have spending money of their own to use on the family vacation.
Let your children save up for a relatively close purchase so that they can experience the pleasure of being able to buy something on their own after having controlled their urge to just spend the money.
If you buy your kids everything they ask for, they will have no appreciation for money. Give them some leeway, together with guidance, in how to spend their earnings, gifts, and allowance. At the same time, know where you personally want to draw the line. What will you buy for them, and what will they have to pay for themselves?
Some children want clothes in excess of what their parents deem necessary. Others are caught up in fads, such as collections and music, and just “have to have” a new item every few days. These are areas of parental discretion and may change as the child grows older. But, whatever you do, make sure there are at least some things your child will have to pay for herself.
When you teach your child about financial matters, do so in bite-sized pieces. Your goal should be to teach your child just enough to stimulate a genuine desire to learn more.
Teach your child to “pay himself first” by putting away part of his earnings and gifts.
Your child can open two accounts. One can be to save for a large purchase, such as a musical instrument or equipment, and another for the faraway future. When a child accrues enough savings to purchase the object, you have taught him an important lesson: Saving is really worth it.
When your kids feel comfortable talking to you about money, you’ll have established an important bond that will grow in years to come as your child makes career and investment decisions as an adult.