Being in the financial industry, we are reminded daily of how financially troubled our society is. Every year over 700,000 Americans file for bankruptcy, student loan debt is astronomically high, and families are just scraping by and living paycheck to paycheck trying to make ends meet. Even our clients with great careers and six figure incomes have trouble managing a monthly budget and being prepared for emergencies.
How did we get here? Well, for starters, most families don’t talk about money with their kids. We were never taught about financial education in school, so what we did learn we picked up from our parents or friends and the rest was learned through trial and error. It turns out that most adults have never really learned how to manage their finances. For kids today, the same dynamic exists, but it is even harder to navigate because money has become almost completely intangible.
I have 4 children and have found that young kids today have a hard time grasping the concept of money and how it works. All they see is mom and dad swiping a card at Target or pushing a button on their phone and Amazon boxes full of stuff just magically appear on their doorstep. Today’s kids rarely ever SEE money or understand that a financial transaction has taken place when something is purchased.
So how do we teach kids about money when it is invisible? It is now more important than ever to be very intentional when we are talking about money and teaching these lessons and habits to our kids. We must look for teachable moments and create them where we can.
I participated in a training through Money Quotient where I learned that the money behaviors we observed as children stick with us forever and shape how we view money as adults. Kids When it comes to talking about money, you should start young, as early as 3-5.
You shouldn’t teach them the time value of money at this age, but there are some concepts you can discuss with them:
You need money to buy things:
Identifying things that cost money, toys, ice cream, etc. Also understanding that a lot of things that have value are free – spending time playing with a friend or cousin.
Money is earned by working:
You can explain that some people work for others and some start their own businesses. Talk about your job and what you like about it. You can talk with them about ways they might think of to make money.
Sometimes you must wait before you can buy things you want and there is a difference between what you want and what you need.
These concepts are tricky for a lot of adults to understand, so the sooner they start hearing these messages, the better.
Kids are sponges that are eager to soak up information. Kids want to know about money, mainly because money can lead to new stuff (they love stuff!) so use their curiosity to your advantage to start the conversation. In previous generations, the topic of money has been taboo at best. It wasn’t that long ago that husbands didn’t even tell their wives how much they made, much less discuss it with their children.
If your kids are asking questions about money, don’t shy away from the conversation or make it seem like they shouldn’t talk about it. We want money to be a normal topic of conversation. You want them to keep coming to you with questions about money (and other things in life), so it is important that you address their questions and be upfront and honest and have a conversation about it. If you make it awkward, they will likely stop coming to you with life questions and get their information from other sources like kids on the playground or the internet and you don’t want that to be their go to place for information.
It is also important to be aware of gender stereotypes with money. A study that Ron Lieber sited in “The Opposite of Spoiled” noted that we still gravitate towards having money conversations with our sons and not our daughters. It is so important not to foster these stereotypes in your home. Everyone needs to learn how to be smart with money.
Like with most things, the sooner you start the better. If you can ingrain a behavior early on, the better it will stick. Kids who grow up with a good education around money and healthy spending habits will grow into adults who are less likely get stuck in a dangerous debt cycle, are better prepared for emergencies, and have a surplus to give to charity and support their communities. Look for teachable moments and fun ways to talk about these concepts. Most kids love to read or have books read to them, so using books and characters to introduce these concepts can be a fun way to start the discussion.
In my book, “Milton the Money Savvy Pup: Brings Home the Bacon”, Milton learns a few very basic financial concepts. He learns how to identify coins and their value, understands that you earn money by working and that sometimes you must wait and save to get what you really want. Check it out here: www.MiltonTheMoneySavvyPup.com
Jamie Bosse, CFP®, RFC is a Financial Planner at Aspyre Wealth Partners. She is a mother of four and Author of the children’s book, Milton the Money Savvy Pup: Brings Home the Bacon.
“Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees” by Neale Godfrey
Favorite kid’s books about money:
“Milton the Money Savvy Pup: Brings Home the Bacon” – Jamie A. Bosse, CFP®
“The Bean is Not Green”, “Where Did the Money Go”, and “The Cash in the Hat” – Mitch Anthony
“The Four Money Bears” – Mac Gardner. CFP®
“Storytime Series” – Dave Ramsey