April was “Teach Kids to Save” month. Kids learn about money in dozens of ways. Whether or not those methods are beneficial is another story.
As parents, we must decide what we’ll do about the reality that our kids learn about money from credit card companies, advertisers, and Corporate USA very early on. We can let schools, classmates, TV shows, and Junior Achievement educators exclusively teach our kids about money OR we can start the conversations in our own home, today.
Where to begin. If you want to start talking about money with your kids but haven’t the foggiest where to begin, here are 11 conversation starters that should help get the ball rolling. Each of these is directly from another parent – many of whom run their own financial company, blog, or coaching business, and are passionate about teaching others how to raise money-smart kids.
11 Conversation Starters to Help Your Kids Learn About Money
“Our daughter is 23 years old, but she’s launched from the nest and achieved orbit. We started with that cult classic book for 5-year-olds If You Made a Million and later added the suggestions of David Owen from The First National Bank of Dad.”
– Doug Nordman, The Military Guide
Action step: Find a book about money that you can read to your child whether it’s one of our suggestions or something you find on your own that fits your child’s age and interest level.
2. Talk about goal-setting.
“We’re trying to teach our daughter that if you want things that cost money, you have to work to earn them. We don’t do allowances but let’s say she wants a private tumbling lesson. We’ll tell her how many extra chores beyond her basic ones she can do around the house to earn the lesson.”
– Jana Garber Lynch, JanaSays
Action Step: Find something your child would like and establish the number of chores it will take to afford that purchase and how long it will take. Discuss how grown-ups do the same thing and share examples.
“I think the most important money lesson we taught our daughter is that outside expressions of wealth have little to do with actual net worth. Folks can drive a lux car and wear expensive items and still be in debt up to their ears.”
– Barbara Friedberg, Robo-Advisor Pros
Action Step: Drive to a high-end neighborhood and talk about the appearance of wealth versus the reality of debt.
4. Teach them what it takes to buy that special thing they’re asking for.
“One thing we do is when they are old enough (5 or 6) and when they say “I want that” at the store, we use it as a stop down moment and ask them did they ‘bring their money?’ It allows us to talk over the next few days about earning money, saving up for something, and price comparison. It’s really our little ‘money boot camp’ and then once they buy the thing they graduate and can start getting an allowance, doing extra chores, etc.”
– Phillip Taylor, PTMoney
Action Step: The next time you hear your child say “I want that,” begin a discussion about what it would take for her to buy that object with her own money.
5. Swap numbers with pictures.
“Want to drive your kids away from a discussion about personal finance? Talk numbers. Want to draw your kids in? Draw a picture.”
– William H. Dwight, FamZoo
Action Step: Sit down with your child and draw what you want to visualize. You could illustrate how chores equal spending money, saving money, and giving money, just like your job. You could draw a house and show how many monthly expenses are necessary to keep the lights on, water running, AC and heat working, and food on the table. If your child is old enough, you could create a graph to show the power of investing with compound interest.
“Let your Girl Scout sell the cookies…she’ll learn important business basics like managing inventory and finances. But when parents sell the cookies, Girl Scouts learn nothing.”
– William H. Dwight, FamZoo
Action Step: At your next garage or yard sale, set up a snack stand and put your kids in charge of it. Guide them as they learn about making signs, counting change, conversing with customers, keeping up with demand, and setting goals.
7. Create a snack budget.
“You’ve got to start with something they’re interested in. With our 4-year-old, we started with snacks. As we’re picking up groceries, she had to choose one snack for the week. That was her ‘budget.'”
– Elle Martinez, CoupleMoney
Action Step: Kids learn about money best when they’re involved in real-life examples. Choose something of value to your child and involve her in the choosing process the next time you’re at the store. Focus on the “Why” as you discuss the importance of planning ahead for snacks, drinks, clothing, etc.
8. Establish wants versus needs.
“When my kids were younger, we did a lot of ‘This is how our family chooses to spend our money.’ Now that they’re teens, they get fairly generous allowances, and Mom funds the needs, they fund wants, and I’m relatively conservative with my definition of ‘want.’ Mom will buy you jeans if you have no decent ones. You want a second pair, buy it yourself.”
– Kate Horrell, KateHorrell.com
Action Step: Pick a room and let your child pick out something he thinks is a want and something he thinks is a need. Discuss each item as he holds it and looks at it to better illustrate this idea.
Action Step: Set up a jar or piggy bank and label it “Family Fun Day.” Place it somewhere everyone can see it and tell the children that you can all contribute. Once you reach your goal, the family (as a whole) will go somewhere special together – i.e. a museum, festival, trampoline park, bowling, the zoo, etc. Talk about working toward a goal, especially as a family, and how money can be used toward experiences, not just toys.
10. Start a “Family Giving” fund.
Action Step: Set up a family piggy bank like the “Family Fun Day” jar, but tell the kids that every contribution will be donated to a special cause of your family’s choosing. Discuss how money can help those in need and that not everyone has it as good as you.
11. Help your kids learn about money by visiting your bank.
“We bring the girls to the bank with us. At the Huntley House, our kids earn a weekly allowance by doing small chores. We talk about goals, saving, and spending. Each of the girls has their own savings account and are aware of how it all works. Sheltering children from the financial realities of their future makes no sense.”
– Chris Huntley, Insurance Blog By Chris
Action Step: Take your children with you to the bank and walk them through your transaction. Talk to them about what you do at a bank. Bonus step – Set up their first savings account and discuss all the things people can save up for. Toss in a pop quiz at the end and free ice cream cone as a prize if they get enough questions right.
In the comments below, share one conversation starter you plan to try out on your child.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.