Chances are you’re not going to find a book titled “The Basics of Financial Literacy” in your child’s backpack from school. But it certainly would be a helpful part of their curriculum.
If your child isn’t learning financial basics in the classroom, like how to save money, how to create a budget, or how to balance a bank account, that means the burden falls on you to teach them the financial ways of the world. Research has shown that kids who have sound money management skills, and who develop good money habits, have a greater chance of personal financial success in adulthood.
So when should you start laying this groundwork? Early on, according to experts. One of the first financial lessons you can teach your child revolves around that time-tested tool – the piggy bank. The simple act of having your child put coins in the bank on a regular basis can set the stage for learning how to save. You can even show them by example by having an “adult” piggy bank they can watch you put money into.
Once your child is a bit older, it’s time to introduce them to real-world situations where money is involved. A trip to the bank is a good place to start. Your child can watch you deposit money into a savings account, and you can explain to them that you’re putting that money aside, just like they do with their piggy bank. You can drive this point home even more by helping them to open a savings account of their very own.
Another great way to teach your child about money is to take them with you on a shopping trip. Even just heading to the grocery store is a great start. Your child can help you make a list of what you need at the store, and you can even have them add an item or two that they want. Once at the store, try to pay with cash so they can see that money is being used to purchase the items – the same kind of money that they have in their piggy bank.
If they have money of their own saved up, you can even let them bring it with them to the store. This can be a good opportunity to explain “needs” versus “wants” with your child. And, by letting them make a decision about whether to spend their money on a toy or a candy bar, or save up their money to purchase a “big ticket item” down the road, they’ll be able to start thinking about the financial choices available to them on a daily basis.
As they enter their teenage years, kids are old enough to understand the importance of creating and sticking to a budget. Again, showing by example is a good way to convey this knowledge. Let them sit with you while you pay the bills and explain what you’re doing. By showing them the importance of knowing how much money is coming in and going out of the household each month, you’ll be driving home a valuable lesson that will help them to manage their own money.
You might also consider helping your teen to open their own checking account. Since you’ll be acting as a co-owner on the account (children under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to open a bank account with them), you’ll have a chance to oversee your child’s spending and money management habits, and step in when you see they need some guidance. By allowing them firsthand experience managing their own money, they’ll be a lot more financially savvy by the time they head out into the “real world”.
Once your teen proves to be responsible with their checking account, you can introduce them to the world of credit. Explain the basics of establishing credit and what it means to carry a balance on a credit card and pay interest on that balance. You can even walk your child through the process of applying for a credit card if you think they’re ready. And don’t forget to stress the importance of making credit card payments on time and paying at least the minimum required. A later lesson would be to show how maintaining good credit is important when it comes to taking out a car loan or applying for a mortgage.
Let’s be honest; what parent doesn’t want a bright financial future for their child? By introducing your child to the skills and knowledge they’ll need to manage their own money, you’ll be helping them to build a strong financial foundation they can take with them into adulthood.