Financial literacy begins in childhood through counting, playing with pretend money, etc. and develops through adulthood. School-age children know about saving, spending, and some start earning, whether through chores or other paid work, including part-time jobs. But it’s one thing to know how to make money and save, but it’s another thing to learn it’s importance and how to make a financial plan.
You can contribute to your child’s financial success by providing the learning foundation. Start anytime. It seems appropriate with a discussion of the key economic concepts below.
Saving can start very early in a child’s life, including with a piggy bank. Once in school, you can take your child to a bank to set up a student savings account. In doing this, you can explain how savings accounts keep money safe, allow for interest to be earned, and can provide a buffer against future expenses.
When opening the account with your child, make sure they know the purpose of the account, whether it be for savings or for purchases. Make sure a discussion about privacy comes up including the importance of keeping the password private and what to do if a debit card is lost or stolen. It’s never too early to discuss post-secondary tuition fees and future vehicles as potential significant goals.
It’s important that children know how to distinguish between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ and how to evaluate each potential purchase this way. Discuss how money saved today might be better spent on other opportunities in the future.
Go to the shopping mall together with your child only with a purpose, to avoid getting sidetracked with unexpected impulse buys. Be sure to try on or try out an item at the store before purchasing it and consider looking elsewhere before making a decision, including online. Discuss how to compare value between items, services and stores. Suggest a break away from the mall before making a high-cost decision. In this cooling-off period, your son or daughter may more easily part from the desired item.
If you want to provide your children with an allowance, provide a monthly or seasonal allowance for clothing, meals and entertainment to allow your child to practice independent budgeting within that allowance. Another good suggestion is to teach your children about giving to charities at a young age as well.
Once your child is old enough to earn their own money, creating a budget is imperative. Budgeting is an excellent way to help your teen prioritize and start making choices about how to save and spend money. It is valuable to make even a basic spreadsheet of how much your teen has collected and what it costs to buy desired goods and services, spread out monthly. Maintaining a spreadsheet of money coming in and out each month can help your teen to track expenses and make better spending choices consciously.
I know that it might seem too early to start teaching your little ones about budgeting and saving, but I believe that they are never too young. As mentioned above, even playing “store” with your children will start to give them a sense of the importance of understanding finances.