“I wish I would’ve known this stuff when I was younger.”
That’s a statement I hear all the time. Too many adults these days learned little, if anything, from their parents and schools about money—meaning marketers and our spend-happy culture filled in those gaps.
That’s why I’m so passionate about changing how the next generation views money. And that’s why it’s so important for parents to get involved. Sure, you’ve got a lot going on—soccer games, cheerleading practices, church groups.
But no matter how busy life may be, it’s important to teach your kids about money as early as possible. When you make it a priority now, they’ll make it a priority when they’re an adult!
Let’s take a look at three ways you can teach younger kids (think pre-school to pre-teen) about money.
1. Create Teachable Moments
With kids under 14, you don’t need to sit down and do a written budget. Their envelope system, or the money in the piggy bank, is their budget. I suggest using three envelopes or jars, labeled Spend, Save and Give.
When it’s time for mom and dad to make the budget, don’t be afraid to set up shop in the kitchen while the kids play on the floor or in the room next to you. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, let them sit at the table next to you and “count” their own money while you make the budget.
The key here is that your kids see you budgeting. Think about how cool it would be to raise children who go their entire lives seeing a monthly budget as a perfectly normal thing to do!
2. Get Your Kids Involved
In our book, Smart Money Smart Kids, my dad shares the story of teaching my older sister, Denise, how to write a check. While he was paying bills, she popped up beside him and asked what he was doing. So he pulled up a chair and taught her how to write a check. She was about 10 years old at the time.
As she filled in the total amount ($238) for the electric bill, she looked at dad with complete surprise. She was shocked electricity could cost that much—especially when dad told her that was just for one month! She then understood why mom always told us to close the door when we went outside.
What a valuable experience for a child! By simply taking 10 minutes out of his day, my dad taught Denise an incredible lesson that would last for the rest of her life.
3. Teach by Example
My mom was great about this when I was growing up. She used to take me grocery shopping with her all the time. When I was 7, we were checking out and I saw her pull two $100 bills out of her purse. I was shocked! “It costs $200 to buy groceries for us?” I asked her. She laughed and told me when my little brother got older, groceries would cost even more!
Up to that point, I had just taken the food on my plate for granted. That changed when I began to understand that milk and bread and toilet paper cost money. A lot of money! The only reason that experience happened—and stuck with me—is because my mom took the time to model how budgeting worked.
Bottom line: Don’t wait until your kids are in college to teach them about money. Get started now. Keep it simple and age appropriate, but create teachable moments, get them involved, and teach by example.
Take these small steps and, 20 years from now, your kids won’t be saying, “I wish I would’ve know this stuff when I was younger!”