If you don’t teach your kids how to manage money, somebody else will. And that’s not a risk you want to take! We’ll show you how to give your kids the head start you wish you had and set them up to win with money at any age.
Given how important financial skills are to navigating life, it’s surprising that our schools don’t teach children about money.
“It’s actually easy to teach kids about money,” says Jayne A. Pearl. “Turn your day-to-day activities into learning experiences.” Trips to the bank, store, or the ATM machine, can be a perfect opening for a discussion about how you use money. When children are very young, you can work money concepts into your child’s imaginary games. I remember my sister and I played “Hotel.” One of us would be the guest the other the hotel owner. We used monopoly money to pay for things.
Ages 3 – 5
Introduce young children to coins first. Teach them the value of coins and encourage them to save their coins in a piggy bank. Use a clear piggy bank or jar so that kids can actually see their pile of money grow. Talk through this with them and make a big deal about it growing!
Young kids love to play store. . By exchanging play money for goods; your child begins to understand the basics of commerce. Use cereal boxes, fruit, sponges, or paper towels as store items.
Set an example
A study found that money habits in children are formed by the time they’re 7 years old. Little eyes are watching you. If you’re using plastic every time you go out to dinner or the grocery store, they’ll eventually notice. Or if you and your spouse are arguing about money, they’ll notice that too. Set a healthy example for them and they’ll be much more likely to follow it when they get older.
Show them that stuff costs money
You’ve got to do more than just say, “That pack of toy cars costs R40, son.” Help them grab a few rands out of their piggy bank, take it with them to the store, and physically hand the money to the cashier. This simple action will have more impact than a five-minute lecture.
Ages 6 -10
At this age, it’s important to explain to your child, “Money is finite and it’s important to make wise choices. Because once you spend the money you have, you don’t have more to spend.” At this age, your kids should be able to weigh decisions and understand the possible outcomes.
Pocket money for chores
Don’t just give your kids money. Pay them based on chores they do around the house. Like taking out the trash, cleaning their room, or mowing the grass. This concept helps your kids understand that money is earned—it’s not just given to them.
Avoid impulse buys
Instead of giving in, let your child know they can use their hard-earned money to pay for things they want. But encourage your child to wait at least a day before they buy anything over R50. It will likely still be there tomorrow, and they’ll be able to make that money decision with a level head the next day.
Ages 9 – 12
At this age, you can shift from the idea of saving for short-term goals to long-term goals. Make a trip to the bank an event. Help your child open a savings account, and encourage him to make regular deposits. As the balance grows, you can discuss the concept of interest. How the bank pays people back for saving their money. Many banks have children’s accounts that offer no-fee and no-minimum-balance accounts.
Ages 13 – 15
Between lunch money, school supplies, and other small necessities, allowance can go very quickly for young teens. Help your child set a budget by first discussing wants vs. needs. You can reinforce this idea by going over the family budget with your child. Discussing your family’s needs vs. wants.
Teach them contentment
Your teen probably spends a lot of their time staring at a screen as they scroll through social media. And every second they’re online, they’re seeing the highlight reel of their friends, family and even total strangers! It’s the quickest way to bring on the comparison trap. You may hear things like:
“Dad, Mark’s parents bought him a Mac laptop!” How come I have to use your old laptop?”
Contentment starts in the heart. Let your teen know that their laptop is still running well enough (even though it’s not a Mac) to get their homework done. Teaching your kids that spending money on the latest gadgets just to fit in with the cool kids does not bring lasting happiness.
Ages 16 up
There’s no time like the present to have your teen start saving for college. Do they plan on working a summer job? Perfect! Take a portion of that (or more) and toss it in a college savings account.
Before your teen ever applies to universities, you need to sit down and have the talk. The “how are we going to pay for college” talk. Let your teen know that student loans aren’t an option to fund their education. Talk through all the alternatives out there. Like going to working part-time while in school, and applying for scholarships now.
Teach them the danger of credit cards.
As soon as your child turns 18, they’ll get hounded by credit card offers—especially once they’re in college or varsity. If you haven’t taught them why debt is a bad idea, they’ll become yet another credit card victim. Remember, it’s up to you to determine the right time you’ll teach them these principles.
Teaching your children about money at any stage is going to take time on your part. It won’t always be easy. But if you want your children to know how to successfully manage their money when they get older, taking the time now will be worth it.