How to Teach Kids Financial Literacy in an Ever-Changing World
Parents: No one else will guide your child through the basics of money management, and it's almost never too soon to start.
This is one of several upcoming articles focused on financial-literacy tips and activities for parents inspired by the new Entrepreneur Kids book series. The first title in the series, Entrepreneur Kids: All About Money, is available for purchase now via Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop | Entrepreneur Press.
When my wife and I were raising our children, it was an easier time. We could have the kids go out and sell lemonade on the corner. They delighted in hearing the jingle of the coins in their pockets and then spending the cash on candy (or whatever) at the store. Times have changed. It's important not to fumble the financial teaching of our kids today.
Parents: You have to do this financial-readiness teaching for your child; no one else will. Fortunately, there is some time-tested guidance and tools to help you adapt to our changing world.
Oh, how the finanical times have changed
There is so much debt nowadays. Your child is not going to make it financially unless you teach them. You want them to know how to be an entrepreneur? Teach money management and time management first, and give them ample opportunities to practice with money.
Many millennials and older Gen Z adults are back living with their parents because the cost of living on their own isn't as attainable as it once was. It's vital for parents to help prepare their kids for living in an increasingly complex world.
Start young with financial teaching
It's hard in the best of times, but when parents don't have a lot of money, it can be that much harder to teach a child fiscal responsibility. We are busy, and when you add in pandemic-related stresses, teaching a young child about money may not seem that essential, but the lessons learned from our current macro-economic circumstances are all the more reason to make instilling them in our kids a priority.
Even a child between three and five can learn that money has to be earned. They can learn about spending, saving and giving. When you take them to the store, even sharing some financial information such as, "Mommy and daddy are so lucky to have good jobs so that we can buy this food" is meaningful.
Simple conversations go a long way toward informing kids that it takes money to do things. Begin at about age three, and continue until their late teens. If you start young, they'll better understand the connection between finding a job and having money for needs and fun by the time they're in high school.
If you head to the movies or some other recreational outing, reiterate the same concepts: "Aren't we so lucky that we have good jobs so that we can afford to go skiing?" "We are so happy that we can work hard so our family has money to go to movies." These conversations begin to have a cumulative effect.
Support is out there
Some parents might be relieved that their children didn't grow up grappling with the hard realities of money, but as I watch so many millennials struggling financially, I'm grateful I opened my mouth with my kids. Did it feel weird and uncomfortable? Certainlty, but we don't have the luxury of silence anymore.
Luckily, there are many more resources now than there used to be. Check out the National Financial Educators Council for some great age-appropriate advice. And there are many books written for very young kids to start learning about money matters. One of the best I've seen is the Kyng & Kyren Generational Wealth Building Activity Book. Grab one that works for you and your family, and get started.
The cause-and-effect stage
When a kid is about seven-to-10 years old, they're ready to begin earnestly understanding the operations of money. Think of it as their, "If I don't do my chores, I won't get an allowance" stage. In the past, we meted out cash as a reward. In an increasingly cashless society, that may prove more challening. There are credit cards available with kids in mind that parents can stricly monitor, which might be the most practical route. It's also an effective way to teach them purchasing power, particularly when they realize there's not enough money left on the card to cover what's in their cart.
Years ago, one of my kids decided to buy a pair of Air Jordans. They were three times the price of regular sneakers, but the child had earned the money, and it was his to spend as he wished. Later, he said, "These shoes wore out just as fast as my other shoes."
I asked, "What did you learn?" At first, he said, "I learned that I can have more shoes if I don't have Air Jordans." Later, he revised his opinion, saying, "I'm buying another pair of Air Jordans because I have the money," adding that he wanted to make more so that he could buy Air Jordans for everyone. Now that's an entrepreneur.
With this guidance as a bedrock in their earliest years, your kids will hopefully mature into money-wise teenagers and, eventually, young adults. Parents, it is your great privilege to help your children succeed and move forward financially and in business. Take the challenge, and hopefully you can all bank on the results.