5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Finances

Joe Zito |

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on a kid’s television network, you’ve seen just how inundated young kids are with commercials for everything from the latest gadget, to some dreadful snack that features something gooey and/or messy. It’s also safe to bet that many of these kids run to their parents, wanting to buy some or all of these items.

It’s difficult, if not impossible for younger kids in particular to understand the dynamics of finances. But instead of cursing those television networks, use them as a way to teach your kids some elementary money management principles.

1. For kids under five, one of hardest things to understand is that you can’t have everything you want. We’ve all seen kids have a melt-down at the store, and even worse, we’ve seen Mom or Dad give in and buy them the toy, candy bar, or cookie, only to stop the glares from fellow shoppers. Instead use this as a teaching moment, which admittedly is much easier said than done. But by taking your child outside until they calm down, you’ve taken the first step towards teaching them that while it’s okay to want something, that doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

2. For kids up to age 10, it’s important that they start making educated choices about the things they want. Teaching your kids that everything they hear on commercials isn’t necessarily accurate can help manage their buying impulses later. This is an important lesson, and one that some adults could stand to learn as well. Witness the success of late night infomercials that seek to sell you everything from professional grade knives to cosmetics that will make you look 20 years younger, proving that we can all fall for a good sales pitch, no matter how old we are.  Learning this at a young age will go a long way towards good money management as they mature.

3. Encourage them to start earning their own money. For younger children, provide them with a list of chores that they can consider their ‘job.’ By completing those chores on a timely basis, they can earn money for what they want to buy. But the no chores/no money policy has to be abided by, or this lesson will quickly lose its effectiveness.

4. Help them with their first purchases, but leave the final decision up to them. If your child’s heart is set on a particular item, let them buy it with the money they’ve earned. By all means, help them make an informed decision, and make sure it’s age appropriate, but after that, stand back and let them buy the item, whether you think it’s worth the cost or not.

5. These same principles apply as your kids get older and the stakes become higher and much more expensive. As your kids become young adults, they’ll be looking at things like clothing, cars, and even college. The principle that they learned when they were five still applies – you can’t always get everything you want.  What you can do is encourage them to compromise on the smaller things, and hold out for what’s really important.

Money management can be tricky, but if you teach your kids the principles while they’re young, it’s more likely that they’ll become fiscally responsible adults.


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