While most financial literacy programs are created for children in middle and high school, you can start introducing personal finance concepts to your kids as early as preschool, says Levine. “While they won’t understand very sophisticated financial concepts, they can develop habits like being frugal and being generous,” Levine says. “When they get to middle school and high school and learn about how finance works, some of the more fundamental things will already be part of their nature.”
Find the Right Program
Deciding to give your child a first-rate financial education is the easy part. Finding the program that best suits your child’s needs can present more of a challenge. While the number of schools that teach personal finance is rising, most parents will need to look further. According to the Council for Economic Education’s Survey of the States 2009: Economic, Personal Finance, and Entrepreneurship Education in our Nation’s Schools, only 13 states required students to take a personal finance course in 2009. That means roughly 70% of students from elementary through high school were not required to learn anything in the classroom about managing money.
If a school system doesn’t offer classes or after-school financial literacy workshops, parents can look to churches, as well as community organizations such as the YMCA, YWCA, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Banks and credit unions also have programs, but be wary of those that may be more interested in pushing their own agenda. “For example, if a bank emphasizes opening up bank accounts at that bank, that would be a red flag,” says Aliche. If you’re having trouble locating a program in your area, ask other parents or local financial professionals for a recommendation.
Prices for programs can run the gamut. Some are free; others can charge as much as $1,000. But, beware, warns Golden: High cost doesn’t necessarily signify quality. “There are too many good programs out there that don’t have any commercial ties that are completely free,” he says.