Toy cash registers, grocery baskets, and dress up outfits. Children will play out what they see in the real world. If they see mommy or daddy using credit, they’ll use a play credit card instead of cash. Sadly, because of the credit card revolution, they’ve had to come out with machines at fast food places that give you your coin change instead of the person at the register counting it. It’s just not commonplace to know how to make change anymore.
Have these culture changes added to the issues that we see in our country today with the overuse of credit? I’m not sure, but I do think that children should be learning how to use money at a younger age then when we currently teach them.
- For little ones- Make it fun. I know that money isn’t always fun, unless you’re spending it on something you want. But, do everything you can in order to make the process fun. If they want to hand the lady at the cash register the money, let them do it. Let them grab what you need from the shelves, and, if they’re able to read and understand numbers, help show them what’s cheaper than the other. Make everything a game; you may enjoy it more too.
- For Tweens- Give them an allowance. Allowances make some people nervous. A family I know doesn’t give their kids an allowance, per se, but they give them money by the chore. If that makes you feel more comfortable, then do it. Then, help them make a “budget” based on their allowance, so they get into the habit of budgeting their money. Now, you can always give them money outside of their budget for trips or for fun things, but teaching them how to budget their allowance will give them an idea of what the future should bring.
- For Teens- Show them credit early on. Visa is so smart. When they introduced the pre-paid debit card, they also introduced one of the absolute best ways to teach teenagers how to appropriately manage a credit card. Instead of giving your child money for their birthday, give them these cards, which are usable wherever Visa cards are. This will help teach your teen to keep cash on their person, to keep track of how much they have left on the card, and when is an appropriate time to use it.
With the older two age groups, also consider getting your teen a savings account. Many financial institutions offer accounts that the parent and child can be on together, usually with an increased interest rate and/or a lower minimum balance. Teach them to keep track of the account and show them how to balance a checkbook.
Many of these important skills were not shown to many people who are currently in their 20’s and 30’s, leaving them to struggle and figure it all out themselves. Thankfully, many of them, including myself, have learned how to budget and interact with money appropriately, but I know starting early would have helped this in-between generation. So, parents, consider using these methods in your own journey of helping your child on a path to financial stability for a lifetime!