With three kids (one on the way — we adopted), and a couple of businesses, we’re quite the busy parents. Perhaps you can relate.
But no parent should be too busy to teach their children about money. Proper money management is an important skill to learn growing up, and if you think the education system is going to teach them everything they need to know, think again. Many of our schools don’t teach kids about money. Parents might not realize this, and they should so they can fill the gap.
There are a few financial lessons every parent should teach their kids before high school. If you have kids, which of these lessons are you currently teaching them?
1. Give Freely
It’s a simple but powerful lesson. Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, for Parents.com, listed several ways children can learn to give: donating clothes, helping neighbors, creating a charity jar, and more.
Imagine for a moment that everyone gave to others in need out of their own free will. Imagine the kind of place the world would be. Imagine the people who wouldn’t go hungry, the lives that would be saved, and the relationships that would be formed.
There’s nothing wrong with working toward that ideal even if we know it will never be fully achieved. And, curiously, giving accomplishes so much for the giver just as it does for the receiver.
By teaching our children to give, we show them how to be content with what we have. Contentment is one of the best qualities of the finest people, but it’s also one of the most difficult qualities to acquire. That’s why it’s so important to teach our children how to give when they’re young.
Contentment goes a long way in someone’s financial life. It allows them to spend less on things that don’t matter and focus more on the important things in life: family, friends and meaningful work.
Giving also teaches children the value of selflessness, a quality mocked by much of our self-centered culture. Giving shows children how to think about others rather than themselves.
2. Save Wisely
Saving allows individuals to be self-sufficient. But it must be done in measured ways.
When you’re teaching your children to save, explain to them why they should be saving in the first place. Perhaps they want a particular toy they saw advertised. Explain to them how to save for the toy so they can purchase it.
You’re teaching your children how to plan when you teach them how to save. You’re teaching them how to think about the future, how to delay gratification, and how to achieve their goals.
That’s why teaching them to save wisely is so very important. Part of that is not just saving for things they enjoy, but to also save for emergencies. It’s not a bad idea to teach your older children about emergencies and why they should save for those.
3. Work Smartly
Working in a smart manner isn’t something many children are taught. Instead, they are taught to work hard. While working hard is very, very important, it’s only one part of working in a smart manner.
The other part of working in a smart manner is to work efficiently. Teach your children how to get more done in less time by batch-processing chores. For example, teach them that they can pull the weeds after mowing the lawn. Teach them to sweep the kitchen floor after doing the dishes.
Show your children how to set time limits for themselves to get chores done so they stay on task. If they allow themselves an infinite amount of time to get something done, they just might take that long to do so. Make it fun. Make it a game. Get them motivated!
Finally, show them how work results in money. We give our kids a commission, not an allowance. Why? Kids should learn that work results in earning income. They shouldn’t receive money for simply existing.
You might make a list of chores that are a part of their household responsibilities without pay, and then make a special list of chores that allow them to earn some money. Put it up on the refrigerator. Again, make it fun. Praise your children when they complete the chores.
The other great lesson this teaches children is to keep a to-do list. Task management is something that’s also often a neglected topic in schools, so teaching them how to work using a task list is a necessity that will help them calmly navigate all of the various responsibilities they have in life.
Bonus Tip: Be a good example to your children.
If you haven’t noticed (I’m sure you have), your children watch your every move.
This includes, of course, how you manage your money. They watch what you spend money on, how you spend your money and how you deal with difficult financial situations.
The best way to be a good example to your children is not to merely act like you have it all together, but to actually have it all together. Actually organize your finances online and put together a monthly budget. Invest regularly for your retirement. Reduce the interest you are paying on that debt by getting a balance transfer credit card and begin to pay down that debt as fast as you can. Whatever your financial next step is, take it.
As your children grow, you’ll be able to show them how you’re handling your money. They’ll learn these lessons from what they see you doing, but they’ll also learn as you explain to them how money works.
But remember, the best possible way to be a good example to your children is to actually become the kind of person you want your children to become. It needs to be genuine, so work on yourself.
Teach yourself to manage money better than ever before, be open with them about how you are investing your money, and if you have debt, be honest and explain the mistakes you’ve made and how you are fixing them. Show them how you track your credit by checking your credit scores for free on Credit.com and by getting your free annual credit reports. Your children will catch on and will hopefully follow your excellent example.
Teach these lessons to your children before high school, and they’re likely to excel beyond most of the peers and experience the rewards of their financial education for many years to come.
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