Our job as parents is to be our kids’ tour guides on this epic journey called “life.” We are the ones who guide them through lessons of kindness, cleanliness, empathy, exploration - and somehow, when it comes to managing money, we are reticent to guide them, and often neglect to even talk about money in a positive way.
But money (and management of it) is a crucial lesson in living a successful life! Understanding where money comes from, how it is earned, how it is given, and appreciating the responsibility and gratitude that comes from all, is essentially understanding how we welcome more freedom into our lives. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys freedom - and teaching our kids that distinction is an excellent gift we can give them to make their epic journey even more enjoyable.
So here are three ways you can teach your kids about money right now, to guide them through their adult lives using habits they create in childhood. For the record, knowing how awkward so many people feel with respect to talking about money - it’s absolutely fine if you’re learning these lessons alongside them.
Allowance is not a reward; it’s a tool. Yes, our kids are expected to do chores and participate in family maintenance, and they don’t get paid to do that: they get to be a part of the family for that. Being a part of the family means taking responsibility for your home environment, and the smooth flow and function therein. Our kids get allowance to teach them about money management. the concept of “spend, save, and share” is an excellent system for this. Let’s say each week your child gets $3: they divide that into three mason jars marked spend, save, and share. You can talk together about what they’re hoping to use each for, how they’re going to share their money with others, what they’re saving for and why, and absolutely they can get a Beanie Boo at the store, or popcorn delivery at school - they can fund that out of their spend jar.
Teaching them to be responsible for their own money gives them an immediate accountability for where money comes from, where it’s going, what each exchange is worth, and how good that feels. It eliminates entitlement, as they are now a part of the conversation as to what they choose to invest their own money and energy in. Seven is the perfect age to start this practice at, and start those healthy habits at an early age.
Every time you say “we can’t afford that” or “must be nice to have THAT kind of money,” you are locking in a “lack” state of mind for you and your children; it sends the message “wealth is not FOR us.” Those words, those intense feelings that money is something “other” or foreign to your lives, something you spend time wishing for but not acquiring, teaches your kids that wealth is for some, not for all, and definitely not for them.
The reality might be that no, you can’t afford it - right now. But if you are conscious to focus your earning and spending efforts around a goal, the truth is you are able to make it happen. Is it easy? Not necessarily, but it is possible, and that is a lesson worth sharing.
Re-frame your language (and perspective) to “That’s a great goal! I’d love to go on that vacation too. Let’s figure out how much that will cost and work out a plan to get us there.” Like attracts like, and when you see the world through the lens that things are absolutely possible, you open yourself up to more possibility - conversely when you look through the lens that some things are just not within your reach, that’s a choice you are making, and one that will be reaffirmed over and over again if you let it. A message of empowerment that we definitely want to install for our children, is to show them that they play an active role in their lives and have control over so much of how their lives play out.
When you get bill in the mail, you have the choice to see it as a burden, or a gift. Why? Because getting a bill means you have enjoyed the benefit of something fantastic in your life. Don’t believe me? How much do you value having access to heat, clean water, HBO, and the magical use of the internet at the tips of your fingers? This is something to celebrate and be grateful for. When a bill comes, take a moment to appreciate how rich your life is in amenities.
Make it a big deal to sit with your kids while you pay the bills online: even kids as young as five can sound out the company on the bill, read you the amount owing, then circle it and write “Paid (this date)” while you enter it into your online banking transfer. This takes all the fear out of bill paying and makes it a really fun and enjoyable process. When your kids are living independently in a few years, half the learning curve will already be handled, because they’ve adopted this as a regular process with you from the beginning.
Money doesn't have to be just for adults; money is something that makes even more sense as adults when you understand the ins and outs from a young age. Giving our kids the gift of financial literacy will set them up for so much success throughout the course of their lives.