How soon can we teach our kids financial literacy? When do we learn to be good with money?
Some people are naturally savvy when it comes to dollars and cents, but many struggle with saving, budgeting, and planning for our financial futures.
It stands to reason that it’s never too early to start talking about making sense of money.
Financial Lessons or Trial by Fire?
Money sense. For many of us, it was trial by fire as we grew up. We got our first job. We started saving for that special something (bike, ball glove, comic book, the latest sneakers, car). Then we moved away from home. Rent and saving to buy a home quickly follow. Let’s not get started on bills.
When the time came, we also had to learn to save for our kids so they could have all the things we wanted them to have.
Adulting Means Money
Becoming an adult is signified by different things for different people.
Learning to drive. Leaving home, or just turning a certain age.
The definition of what it means to be an adult has changed, according to Young Americans & Money, a 2016 Bank of America/USA Today Better Money Habits report. “The majority of young Americans (62 percent) don’t feel like adults when they turn 18,” because they haven’t achieved financial independence.
A Money 101 lesson in grade school would be a much-needed start towards building a foundation for financial literacy for kids.
Essential might be a better word. But even then, unless you’re on track to be an economist, there are a lot of financial concepts you won’t learn in school.
Financial Literacy for Kids: It’s Time to Have the (Money) Talk
“Your child’s money habits all come down to you, since the number one influence on kids’ financial behaviors is dear old mom and dad,” says Beth Kobliner, an author, journalist, and authority on financial literacy for kids.
We will talk about most things with our kids. Sex. Drugs and alcohol. But for some reason we flinch at finance.
“Many of us don’t broach the topic because we think we don’t know enough,” Kobliner explains. “Others of us feel so mortified by our own finances that it seems laughable to pass on advice to our children.”
A study from the University of Cambridge—Habit Formation and Learning in Young Children—tells us our childhood spending habits are formed by age seven.
The lesson: get started. Now. It’s never too early to start teaching our kids about money.
Keep Finance Fun
Urgency aside, it probably comes as no surprise that financial literacy for kids isn’t one of those subject matters we can just lecture on about. Nothing kills a conversation with a five-year-old faster than a whiteboard presentation on 401ks.
For fun ways to teach a healthy understanding of money and finance to your kids, take a look at Kobliner’s “Make Your Kid a Money Genius: The Activity Kit”. It’s filled with role-playing opportunities designed to teach different financial skills. Fun for the whole family!
There are also many resources you can give your children that can make financial literacy for kids fun and interesting.
Books are always a good choice, like The Berenstain Bears Dollars and Sense: “Papa thinks it’s time to teach Brother and Sister how to budget their money, but will the cubs come to understand the value of a dollar, or will their pockets continue to be empty?”
A board game like Monopoly is a great icebreaker for talking about money and budgeting for older kids. That said, an article in Fortune Magazine makes a solid case for “Why Settlers of Catan Is Better at Teaching Your Kids About Money than Monopoly”.
Include Kids in the Financial Conversation
The overall lesson is to talk about it. Often. Talk about money with your kids. Include them in the conversation. Empower them and incentivize them. Opening up a bank account. Giving them an allowance. Encouraging them to budget for the things they want (and need). All of this will help pave the road to a healthy financial future for our kids.