Let’s be honest. Between running our kids around to soccer practice, making dinner, and tackling that mountain of laundry, sometimes lessons we need to be teaching our children to take a backseat. National Teach Children to Save Day on April 24, 2020, gives us that gentle reminder to focus on one of those lessons that so often get lost in the shuffle: financial literacy for our children. Fortunately, there are simple and practical ways to incorporate savings lessons into our daily lives.
TIME TO WORK
A twenty-dollar fee paid to my son when he mows the lawn is well worth it to me. For one, it is getting hot out and I would rather be doing about anything else. More importantly, though, it helps my son assign a value to money. Money doesn’t come free, it is not just given, earning money takes time and effort. The best way I know how to teach that lesson is by having him work. For my son, who is 11, that means he works on chores at home. For others with older children, perhaps that means working a part-time job. Regardless of how you do it, don’t just give your kids money, let them work for it.
One of the first steps in creating any financial plan is to define goals. For us adults, the major ones are usually focused on things such as retirement, caring for a family member, or maybe purchasing a house. Kids obviously have wanted too. Recently my son picked out a Nerf Gun Mega Mastodon blaster, he figured out how much it cost, saved the money he earned from chores specifically for the blaster, and then bought it. Not only did he set a goal, create a plan, and dominate the neighborhood kids, he learned a valuable lesson about purposeful saving. Helping our children move from one goal to the next, repeating this process over and over, conditions the same behaviors we need as adults: set a goal, create a plan, work towards it, and ultimately succeed.
KEEP IT PERSONAL
In the Rodney Atkins song “Watching You” the son says “I wanna do everything you do, So I’ve been watching you.” The song hits home because our kids learn all sorts of behaviors by paying attention to us. It can feel awkward to talk to your children about your own money, but we need to open the door and let them into our decision-making process. By sharing your savings goals, how you are working towards them, and the challenges you face, you are influencing your kids to see the benefits of good savings habits. You are also reinforcing the value of hard work and the value of money.
A PLACE TO SAVE
I think most people I talk to keep a little bit of cash at home, but most of their savings and assets are held at banks or other institutions. That should be no different for our kids. Watching a balance grow online or from a statement, realistically should be no different than watching a pile of cash under the bed grow. Since using banks is how they will save their money in the future, why not start now? A lot of banks and credit unions have programs to help kids with doing just that. For example, VyStar Credit Union, which is prominent here in North East Florida, offers accounts for ages 12 and under as well as accounts geared towards teens. This is a wonderful way for our kids to learn about several types of accounts, concepts like interest, and be ready to use banks responsibly in the future.
The task of educating your child about savings doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, just limited to parents. Grandparents have a wealth of experience and lots of wisdom to be passed down. Older siblings too should shoulder some of the lessons. No matter how it gets through, I believe it is critical for our children to learn these basic financial concepts today.
You know your child the best and obviously, there may be other methods that work for you and your kids. If you have any other great ideas on how to teach kids about saving, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear them, incorporate them into my household, and share them with the folks I work with.
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