It’s no surprise that children pick up most of their habits by emulating the adults in their lives, everything from what they say to the music they like. Turns out, it’s also true when it comes to money management and learning to save.
Teaching kids about saving money early in life has been linked to better financial habits in adulthood. According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, children are developmentally capable of saving by age 5 and the earlier you begin to show them how, the better they’ll be at it.
So how do you begin to teach kids the importance of money and saving at a young age? Start with these proven tips.
Ease in with a piggy bank
For a young child, seeing something tangible regularly can be a big help in reinforcing new concepts. That’s why having a piggy bank in their bedroom or a shared living space can be so beneficial as they can quite literally watch their savings add up and keep it top-of-mind.
Give them some change each week as you teach them the values of each coin and let them place it in their bank.
Take them to open a bank account
When you’re ready to open your child a bank account, involve them in the process. Taking them with you is not only a great learning opportunity, but also keeps them interested in what they’re learning.
Many banks have accounts specifically designed for kids, like OMB’s Youth Savings account which has a low balance requirement to open, among other perks.
Consider an allowance system
A simple way to teach money management before children enter the workforce is by giving them a regular allowance. Even just a few dollars each week for completing chores teaches them the value of work in exchange for money and helps them visualize what setting aside an amount for savings looks like.
Make goals and help visualize them
Sitting down with your child and coming up with goals together is a great way to keep them involved. Goals to reach a set dollar amount in savings by a certain time or saving enough to buy a specific toy or game are helpful in teaching them discipline and budgeting.
Better yet, make a colorful savings chart on a piece of paper or posterboard and let your child color it in each time they add more money towards their goal.
Have age-appropriate conversations
You wouldn’t have the same conversation about money with a six-year-old that you would with a 16-year-old. However, starting early with concepts a young child can understand helps them begin to build a solid foundation, making those later conversations easier for them to digest.
There are many resources to help determine a general guideline for what concepts to go over with which age groups, such as this article from Parents.com.
Open dialogue is key
It’s important to try to avoid making conversations about money taboo. By answering questions open and honestly, your child will have more realistic expectations and a deeper understanding of financial concepts. Plus, they will feel more comfortable going to you with questions as they get older and their relationship with money changes.
Crystle Stranghoener is a vice president and BSA Officer at OMB and heavily involved with Junior Achievement, an organization that teaches financial literacy in local K-12 classrooms. She's an expert when it comes to teaching children important financial concepts and finding ways to make them less complicated.
According to Crystle, one of the most important things to educate children about are the four main ways money can be used: Earning, saving, spending, and donating.
“We discuss what each of these means, how we do these things in our communities and why it’s important to make all four choices," she said. "Donating includes time, money, and items – some examples would be spending time with the pets at a local shelter, donating food items to a local food bank, or dropping some coins in a red kettle at Christmas time. Overall I think the most important part is giving children the opportunity to practice what we’ve talked about."
It’s also crucial to explain needs as opposed to wants and when it’s appropriate to spend money on each. She added that a simple and age-appropriate way to explain the concept involves detailing the differences between the two with examples they understand.
“Needs are things you must have to live, like food, clothing, and shelter," she said. "Wants are things you would like to have, but you do not have to have to live, such as pets and toys. People who make smart choices with their money make sure to pay for all of the things they need before buying things they want. A great opportunity to discuss needs and wants is by letting children help with the grocery shopping.”
Lead by example
Like most things, one of the strongest ways you can teach a child is by showing and not just saying. Let them see you go to the bank, talk about setting money aside from each paycheck for savings, and explain what you’re doing when you balance your checkbook and pay bills. By seeing these things in action, they’re much more likely to follow your lead.
The importance of financial literacy can’t be overstated. By teaching children early and finding age-appropriate ways to keep them engaged, they’ll have a solid foundation for financial success as they move through stages of life into adulthood.
OMB and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decision.
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