Take a moment to think about your financial habits — good and bad. Do they mirror things your parents did? Was your father a diligent saver who was certain to be ready for that “rainy day”? Or did your family value new things, even if it meant going into debt? Understanding the origin of your financial habits and values can help you to get your finances in order and be more deliberate about teaching your children attitudes about spending, saving, and giving.
As a parent or grandparent, it’s important to think about the financial habits you’re modelling. It’s important for children to hear and see how decisions are made. By involving children in financial decisions in an age-appropriate way, you give them the tools to make their own decisions later in life.
Here are a few tips to help you teach your children good financial habits:
- Have your child decorate three jars — one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving to church or charity.
- When your child receives money as a gift or she begins to get an allowance, talk with her about the importance of all three areas and help her to decide how much to spend, how much to save and how much to give.
- Help her create a chart to track her progress toward savings and giving goals.
- Help her decide where to give her money — a program at your church or an organization in your community — or choose a family project to support together.
- As children learn to save, you could match or supplement their savings to encourage their behaviour and help them reach their goals.
Tips for older children:
- Go with your child to set up a savings account. Most banks or credit unions have no-fee accounts for children. Involve her in the process of deciding which account is best.
- Teach your child to keep track of her savings account activity. Starting now when it’s simple will help her as her finances gradually get more complicated.
- Again, you can agree to match or supplement her funds as she advances toward her goals. Or you could even help her find a high interest savings account and begin to teach her about investing.
Tips for teens:
- Give your child responsibility for some expenses. Perhaps paying for his entertainment, birthday gifts for friends, or some of his clothing. If he wants expensive clothes that don’t fit into the family budget, ask him to contribute. This will help him make good decisions and learn the value of money.
- When your older child gets a job, help him to set up a chequing account and learn to track his spending.
- Discuss setting up an automatic transfer to a savings account or investment to continue building good habits. It’s also a good time to talk with him about the power of compound interest. Starting to save early will have an amazing effect.
As you consider the financial habits you want to pass on to your children, think about the lessons of your own life: what’s important to you and what do you wish you had known sooner? Make money discussions a regular part of life, not something secret or scary. Talk to your children about how you make decisions about a big purchase or how you decide what to give to your church or charity.
“Train a child in the way she should go, and when she is old she will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6