Valuable advice for teaching kids about money
Parents have been more than just nickel-and-diming me with their questions about how to teach their children about money, how it’s earned and how it’s used. Let me try to make some cents on this important topic.
Start at age 3
Believe it or not, you can start teaching your child about money by age 3 or so by focusing on the concept of needing to save up to buy something, and that going into a store does not mean that they will automatically get something. Create three jars when they receive money as a gift: one for saving for something big, one for spending and one for sharing for a good cause. This can help your young child learn some key principles of how money is used.
You can teach counting and what various coins are as you put money into a jar, and note how much more is needed to reach a goal. By playing pretend games like running a store or playing imaginary restaurant, they can also begin to understand the need to exchange play money for various goods.
By school age, you can teach your child that they need to make choices as to how to spend money. Give your child a finite amount of money in a store to use. You can then show them that the same food product may cost more if it is not generic, or how you can save money by buying in bulk or using coupons. This is the age when an allowance can start in exchange for doing chores, to show them that money is earned and not just given out for free. They should also begin to go to the bank with you and perhaps open a savings account.
Tackle interest and debt with teens
By adolescence, you can teach the concept of saving for short-term goals and long-term goals and what interest is all about. You could also begin to teach your teen about the stock market and perhaps pretend to invest in companies your child is familiar with to see how it does.
In high school, you can begin to show your teen how to set up a budget and to understand the costs of needs vs. wants. In addition, your teen needs to understand what various colleges might cost and how you might finance college with financial aid or loans, scholarships or out of pocket, as well as the fact that their getting a part-time job can help with the process.
Finally, when your teen turns 18, they need to learn that they should only get a credit card if they feel they can pay the balance off in full each month so as to avoid debt or a bad credit history. The idea of giving to charity that can begin as early as toddlerhood should certainly continue into adolescence and adulthood to promote social responsibility as part of using a hard-earned dollar.
Hopefully you’ll bank tips like these so your child will cash out with a good sense of how to be responsible when it comes to earning or spending money.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.