While we focus so much on our children’s physical well-being, and with good reason, we devote little to no time to our children’s fiscal wellness. Isn’t learning about money management and good financial habits an essential part of being a successful and healthy adult? After all, financial challenges and struggles are a leading cause of stress, which can often lead to health problems.
April is National Youth Financial Education Month and an ideal opportunity to begin or continue the discussion about finances with your children (or a young person in your life). The challenge is to discuss or even teach basic finances to a child without having it come across as a lecture. Finding the right “age appropriate” approach is critical but not always easy, especially with younger children. Keeping it simple and integrating concepts like opening an account, savings, allowances and spending are great places to focus. Here are some other things to consider:
• Start early. According to research from the University of Cambridge, many money habits are set by age 7. At that age, the study says, most children are able to recognize the value of money and understand that money can be exchanged for goods, as well as what it means to earn money. And, if you haven’t already, open an account for them.
• Consider an allowance. This is a great teaching tool – in part because your kids need to have access to money of their own in order to learn to manage it. And these are a way to get it to them consistently. When you give your kids an allowance, you should also give them a list of things for which you will no longer be paying. This teaches them to prioritize their spending.
• Reward saving. Begin with a blanket statement: You should save at least 10 percent of any money you have. If your kids can adhere to that throughout their lives, they’ll have a leg up on adult goals – like retirement. But also acknowledge, it’s hard to save for a $100 purchase on an allowance of $5 a week. So, consider a system where you will match their savings to get them to their goals faster. Remember: You want them to learn that saving is a good thing and so you want them to succeed here, even if it costs you a little bit more.
• Encourage your teens to work. Money they earn themselves is going to be more valuable to them than money that is given to them. Your kids will blow through their allowance much faster than they’ll blow through the money the neighbor paid them to mow the lawn (and they’ll blow through your money the fastest of all, if you let them). That’s because as soon as they start working, they’ll make the connection between the money in their paycheck (or handed to them for babysitting) and an hour of their time. They’ll be more inclined to save it for something they really want – you may no longer have to enforce the savings rule, they may be doing it on their own.
• Struggling is a valuable lesson. Finally, although it’s sometimes it’s easier to hand over a dollar of yours when your kids have blown all of theirs and avoid the argument. But when you do it, you’re not teaching your kids the most valuable lesson of all: When the money is gone, it’s gone.
Throughout childhood, parents devote a lot of time to a child’s health with regular doctor and dentist wellness appointments. Consider adding in regular fiscal wellness checks or dialogues with your children, too. Their health (financial) will be better for it.