It can be tough to broach the subject of money with kids. After all, they likely haven’t had a real job or had to worry about their own finances early on in their lives. For children, adults appear to have their finances figured out, with magical credit cards that allow them to pay for everything and no knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. Talks about the value of saving money are generally the baseline measure taken to help kids understand finance, but even then, the idea of spending and saving money may seem a world away to them.
I’d like to share a few of the ways that you can talk to your kids about money in a way that can prepare them for the future.
Explain how your finances work.
Children are renowned for their curiosity, and when speaking with them, it helps to treat them like people and not talk down to them. That said, it can be difficult to explain finances in terms that they would readily understand. But some of the basics—how a credit card must be paid back, how monthly expenses can define a budget—can be crucial in giving your children a sense of the effort that goes into managing money.
With the amount of automation that comes with managing finances, it can seem like an effortless process to an outsider, something that anybody can tell you is certainly not true. Dissect the accounts, payments, and taxes that go into every transaction with your children. You’ll likely find that they’ll have plenty of questions of their own.
Teach Shopping Habits.
Make your kids into smart shoppers by showing them the ways that you compare goods when shopping. Note to them the size and price, and experiment with different brands to spark a discussion about whether or not paying extra for a certain brand is worth it.
Work On Saving Goals.
Saving is one of the basic tenets of financial management, but to what end? Work with your children and encourage them to set saving goals, even if they’re relatively minor. Is there a new game that they want? Talk to them about the price and how long it will take to save up for it. If they get a regular allowance, help put in perspective how far their money goes. Start a savings account for your child, and teach them the value of setting funds aside for the future. Talk to them about setting aside things like birthday and holiday money in this account.
Set a Budget.
This one is more geared at older kids coming up on their teens, but breaking down monthly expenses and comparing them to income is a valuable lesson. As a child, it can be easy to forget about the transactions that keep an individual afloat, from rent to food to car payments. Create a somewhat simplified budget with them, giving them a better sense of how you allocate your finances each month, and give them the chance to plan one of their own.
Once you’ve covered a lot of the basics, talk of stocks and investment can help kids understand the value inherent in businesses. Make it a family activity; have every individual track a stock and discuss the highs and lows that it goes through over the course of several weeks.
With all of the pressure to accumulate enough cash to balance a budget, it is still important to teach your children that, at the end of the day, there is still always someone less fortunate that is worth giving back to. Encourage them to research different charities, and perhaps even foster their own fundraising efforts for giving back to the cause of their choice.
After all, it’s not just about encouraging them to be better spenders, but encouraging them to be better people.