How do you teach a kid to ride a bike?
Do you tell them how to do it? Do you read them a book, maybe the user’s manual? Do you watch a video? No, of course not. You show them how to do it.
How do you teach a kid about money?
Do you tell them how to do it? Do you read to them? Do you watch videos? While all of those will be useful and can help, you still need to show them.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Ben Franklin
OK, makes sense. But how go do it?
That’s what we’re here to do. We’ll talk about experiential activities for teaching these topics:
- Earning money
- Planning and saving money
- Wise consumer behavior
- Maintenance and sustainable success
Let’s get started.
Money doesn’t grow on trees. You know it, and I know it. It’s also important that your kids know it.
I advocate you pay your kids a weekly salary. It’s not an allowance. This is money they earn by completing their jobs and responsibilities.
My suggestion is that you begin with a $5 weekly salary. I break it out into three categories, Spend, Save and Give. $2 for Spend, $2 for Save, and $1 for Give.
While there are a lot of great apps and technologies for doing this, I think it’s important to give them cash, and to put the money in three clear jars.
You’re more than welcome to give your kids more than $5. What’s important is the breakdown of 40% of the salary to Spend, 40% to Save, and 20% to Give. Even if you start with $5, you’ll eventually increase it over time.
I suggest you designate one day and time every week for paying the salary. That way, you won’t forget to do it. We do it Sunday morning.
It’s really important to teach your kids the value of work. For most of us, it’s where money comes from.
Therefore, your kid doesn’t get their salary simply because they live with you. They get paid because they do their jobs
Planning and saving money
When talking with kids about saving money, we’re working to teach them how to delay gratification
. Are you able to delay gratification? Are you able to make sacrifices today for a better future? If you’re able to, you set yourself up for success not only financially, but in nearly every aspect of life.
The first time we did this with our first kid, we were at the park. We saw another kid playing with a glider and my son really wanted one. We got home, researched where to get one and the cost, and we put together a plan for buying one.
We figured out it would take him three weeks to save up his salary to be able to buy it. I printed a picture of the glider and wrote down how much he needed and how long it would take until he could afford it. It was a wonderful experience and we had a lot of fun with the glider.
It’s important to teach kids that your family has a finite amount of money to work with. Because of that, you need to prioritize how you spend it every month.
As your kids get older, be transparent about your household budget. Involve them in your monthly or quarterly budget conversation. Put together a personal budget based on their life; think car insurance, activites, clothes, technology, entertainment, etc. Show them how much their lives cost.
Wise consumer behavior
You want your kid to be a wise consumer. Everytime you go shopping, it’s an opportunity to teach. Teach them about comparison shopping, sales, discounts and getting the most “bang for your buck.”
Teach them that price is what you pay, and value is what you get. So just because something is less expensive, doesn’t make it better or worse.
You can normally get started talking with kids about investing at 8 years old. At this age, the best approach is to invest in individual stocks of companies they’re familiar with.
You can start the conversation by simply saying, “How cool would it be to be able to own a piece of (favorite company name)? We can do that by buying shares on the stock exchange. Would you like to learn about how to do that?”
In order to get started buying stocks, you need to open a brokerage account. There are a lot of great places to do this such as Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and most retail banks also offer these accounts. Ideally, you want to open your account where the fees and expenses are low.
I’m going to dissuade you from opening an account with companies like Robinhood who have created “gamified” interfaces which promote increased trading activity. With stock investing, more activity isn’t necessarily better, and the more time spent on a trading app is also not necessarily a good thing.
As you’re getting started, I recommend you open the account in your name and refer to it as “our family account.” As your kid becomes more interested and engaged, you can look to open a custodial account in their name.
Part of your kid’s weekly salary goes to “give.”
Where and who to give the money to? This is up to you and your family. There are a lot of people and organizations that need help. What’s important is that you talk about it. Explain to your kids what the problem is, who is impacted, why it’s happening, and how they can help by giving their money.
By having these conversations, you’re helping them understand the problems and challenges our communities face, and teaching them about being an advocate. You’re showing them how they can make a difference.
It also doesn’t need to be money. Giving your time or expertise is also an invaluable contribution. If possible, a combination of time and money could be a great thing for you and your family to do together.
Opportunities for teaching about needs are everywhere. Don’t let them pass by, take advantage of real time learning and teachable moments. Once you get in the habit of doing it, you’ll become more and more comfortable doing it.
There are a lot of ways to teach kids about entrepreneurship, we all know about or have run our own lemonade stand. When my son was five, we ran his first. Some kids will be ready earlier, and some will be ready later.
You can also create a Job Board. In my house, this is simply a cork board with dollar bills and sticky notes explaining the job pinned to it. For example, you’ll find a note with $2 for cleaning windows and sweeping the garage.
This will give them an opportunity to earn extra money if they want it.
We can all agree it would have been good to learn how to file a tax return in school. When tax time comes around again, involve your kids in the process. Teach them about the documents to gather, and the forms to complete. Simply involving them in this process will go a long way.
Should they get a job outside the house, you can work with them to complete their form W4. The good news is this form has been streamlined and is fairly easy for a kid to complete.
Maintenance and sustainable success
The more you can normalize conversations about money, the better. I highly encourage you to have a monthly or quarterly family money meeting. You can go over all the topics we just covered; financial priorities you’re working towards as a family, the family budget, family investing, giving, etc.
This doesn’t need to be a long meeting, but it should be scheduled, and everyone should be present and should participate. Hold it at the same time every month/quarter, and put it into your calendar so you don’t forget.
Be as open and honest with your kids as you can be. We’ve all made money mistakes at some point, and your kids will as well. The key is that you’ve gotten past (or are getting past) them.
The biggest key to helping your kids with money is to be intentional about it. When you start, it may be uncomfortable because it’s new to you. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
This will pay dividends and you’ll position your kid for long-term financial success.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this, you can check out our Teaching Kids about Money course.
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