Teaching your child how to be responsible with money can be challenging, especially when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Shawn Rogers, a Community Lender at Red River Bank, stepped in to answer our questions about how to teach kids about good money management.
How can I begin to teach my elementary-age child about money?
Start with the Basics
Creating financial-knowhow at this age requires thorough knowledge of how much each bill and cent are worth. After all, the one thing your child will be handling all their life is money.
Rogers recommends introducing money in various forms from paper money to coins to bills. This can be accomplished using real money or play money and simple language when discussing denominations. Explain the worth of each and how they differ in looks so that your child can begin to tell the difference between each form. Additionally, if you have a mobile banking app, she suggests showing it to your child and using it as an avenue to explain the worth of each type of currency while learning to comprehend the value of money in the virtual sense.
Handling Money Safely
Unfortunately, once a child this young begins to handle money for things like popsicles or extra cookies at school, losing money by accident is an inevitability.
“Make sure your child is properly protected when handling money. Inform them about the importance of keeping track of their money and warn them about the dangers of losing it,” warns Rogers. “Teach them to be aware and cautious when carrying or exchanging cash and always offer assistance if needed.”
Don’t be afraid to reward your child for handling money properly. Rogers suggests offering rewards for money-related activities (counting coins, memorizing worth, and so on) by motivating them with incentives like an allowance which can encourage them to learn more about finances.
Allowances and Piggy Banks
When it comes to allowances and birthday or holiday money, it’s important to teach children how to save responsibly with the classic piggy bank.
Rogers recommends starting early, saying a child as young as five can learn how to handle money and save with proper use of a piggy bank. Have your child pick a goal to save for like a new toy or treat. Start them off with a small donation to their piggy bank and help them keep track of their money by counting together. Once they have a sizable amount of money, plan a field trip to the bank to set up a checking or savings account, explaining what deposits and withdrawals are.
What about high schoolers?
Teach Money Mindfulness
At this age, most teens are starting their first jobs, making starting that checking and savings account that much more important. Once they have one set up, it’s time to teach them how to handle money responsibly.
“Step one is to create a budget,” says Rogers. “Without knowledge of how much income is coming in and where money is going out, it can be difficult to manage spending. Knowing how much money is available each month will help teens stay within their means. It’s important to include all necessary expenses, such as rent and food, in the budget as well as entertainment costs.”
While budgeting, teach them how important it is to save for retirement, even if only in small amounts. By beginning to save early, your teen will be able to take advantage of compound interest, creating the building blocks for a strong financial future. Help them explore the benefits by talking to family and doing online research.
Introduce the Idea of Credit
Credit cards can be scary and dangerous if they are not handled responsibly. To teach your teen how to use a credit card properly, Rogers says to remind them to always pay at least the minimum balance each month and to keep track of how much is being spent.
To get started, have them use their credit card on something small like gas or groceries instead of incurring a large amount of debt. This way, they will gradually build up their credit without a huge risk or cost to you if you must step in to help pay.
And my young adult?
It can be difficult to watch your child enter the real world with their first full-time job or when they’re heading off to college. While you will want to give them their space to grow, it’s okay to give them advice as needed.
Budgeting and Investing
One of the most important bits of advice you can give your child at this stage of life is how to budget and invest. This will help them avoid going into the red or getting into the habit of abusing their credit card.
To start budgeting, help them divide up their monthly and week-by-week expenses like rent, clothes, car note, groceries, gas, and miscellaneous spending like subscriptions. For easy tracking, they can transfer the budget you two come up with onto a budgeting app, further assisting in their understanding of where their money is going each month and how to manage their spending expectations.
Understanding what each paycheck will go towards will make it much clearer how much money will be left over which can be used for treating themselves or better yet, investing.
“Teach your kids the value of investing. Encourage them to look into low-risk strategies like mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. It may not be something they’re interested in now, but having a diversified portfolio can protect their financial future,” advises Rogers.