Sometimes we get so caught up in our own financial issues that we forget about our kids—but consider this—your kids could someday be minding your money. I say this because I have now been given this task by my mother who turned over all of her financial stuff to me and announced that she was no longer responsible; it was now my responsibility and if I messed up, I would have to take care of her. (No pressure there.)
So if you’re in a similar position or expect to be with your parents, imagine someday turning your money management tasks over to your kids. If you don’t like the picture in your head STOP and realize that you are most likely their main money role model and it is up to you to not only set a good example but to teach them the basics. If you, like so many of us, are in the process of learning, bring them on the journey with you and teach them as you learn. This is too big a task to leave up to chance.
So when should you start teaching your kids about money? It’s best to start early, as soon as they can count, around age four or five. Here are five easy strategies every parent can do:
1. Talk to your kids about money. It may not always be comfortable, but it is important. Keeping the whole subject of money a secret doesn’t really help anyone. Teach them your money values, how you make it, and the role it plays in your family. Set aside a specific time each week or at least monthly for family discussions relating to making, spending, and saving money, as well as gifting.
2. Teach your kids how to spend. This may sound a little strange but kids need to understand how to make buying decisions. Use everyday occurrences like going to the grocery store so they can begin to understand what things cost and why you choose one brand over another. Read sales papers and plan purchases together based on the ads. Talk to them about quality, price, sales and bargains, and show them the steps you go through to make buying decisions.
3. Provide a structure for your kids to grow their skills. Make it easy for them to develop budgets and save money on a consistent basis. Help them set up their own accounts and keep records, or you become the banker, providing everything from checking to savings and loans with interest. Also, give them their allowance in denominations that encourage them not spend it all in one place. For example, if you give your kids a $5 allowance, give it to them in $1 bills so that they can easily divide it into different categories like saving, spending and charity.