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How to Instill Sustainable Financial Values at a Young Age

Financial literacy is one of the best ways you can prepare kids for life and ensure their long-term security. Explore activities for instilling financial values in children of all ages.

How to Instill Sustainable Financial Values at a Young Age
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

One of the best ways you can prepare your kids for life is by helping them learn fiscal responsibility. Many parents want to give their children everything and ensure their long-term financial security. One of the strongest ways to ensure your children are financially secure and can have everything they want is through financial literacy lessons at a young age. Through education, you can help ensure the longevity of your family wealth for generations to come.

Some families grow up never speaking of money and treating any financial discussion as taboo. Others may more transparently share budgets and spending. While you may be hesitant to get into nitty-gritty financial details with your kids, you’ll actually be doing them a favor. Currently, less than half of US states require high school students to take a personal finance class. Although these classes have become more commonplace in recent years, educating your children yourself is a great way to get ahead of the curve.

There are four key areas you’ll want to address with your children: earning, saving, spending, and giving. In this article, we’ll explore some age-appropriate activities you can implement at home.

Financial Lesson #1: Earning

a child learns about financial values by performing chores
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

No matter how old you are, money you earn feels more valuable than money you’re gifted. When your kids are old enough, create an opportunity for them to earn their own money they can save, spend, and give. You don’t need to break the bank on an allowance. For young children, you can start as small as giving them a small amount of money for each chore they do from a designated list. As your child grows, you can add more challenging chores that are worth additional money.

Be open with your children about how you earn money. Discuss what you do and how it enables your family’s lifestyle. Talk about how other adults in your family, like their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, make money by explaining their different jobs.

When they’re old enough, encourage your children to pursue their passions for earning extra money. Whether it’s making lemonade and treats for a lemonade stand, babysitting for family, walking dogs, or mowing lawns, there are many ways kids can start earning their own money through work outside the house tied to their interests.

Financial Lesson #2: Saving

a child learns about financial values by placing money into a coin bank
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For younger kids, using a piggy bank can be a great way to visualize and teach money hands-on. Once they're old enough, help your children set up and use their own bank account. Involve them in the set-up process and help them build a plan for how they'll contribute to their savings in the future.

With young children, start by helping them understand the value of saving for short-term goals. This will teach delayed gratification. Your child may find out that after waiting several weeks or even months to save up for their goal, they may no longer feel it's worth the money. This can also help teach patience and trade-offs.

Show your children how money can grow over time. One of the most impactful things you can ever teach your children is the value of compound interest. The earlier you help your children start saving, the more they'll earn in their lifetime.

Financial Lesson #3: Spending

a child learns about financial values by helping grocery shopping
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

For younger children, it's important to explain how things cost money. Today, many people have adopted a plastic-only wallet and rarely pull out actual bills or coins. If you always use a credit or debit card for purchases, talk your children through what you're doing and the fact that you're spending money.

As your children get older, you can involve your kids in budgeting household budgeting exercises (as appropriate). Have your children help you build the grocery budget. Work together to do the math and plan out what meals you can cook. Discussing your budget together is a great way to explore needs vs. wants. Of course, it’s okay to spend on wants sometimes, but you have to prioritize your needs.

Financial Lesson #4: Giving

As a child, I struggled to decide how to prioritize saving pocket money and giving to the causes I cared most about. Just as it's important to save for their future, childhood is the perfect time to learn about the value of giving back. Help your child pick out their favorite charities and causes to donate money to regularly. You may even consider having three separate piggy banks you help your child sort their money into for saving, spending, and giving. Donating to others should be prioritized in the same way saving and spending is, at a reduced percentage of total income.

Let your child determine how they’d like to donate their money. If there’s a specific cause that they’re exceptionally passionate about, such as helping injured wildlife, they will feel more incentivized to donate if it’s going toward a cause they care deeply about.

In addition to financial donations, you can teach about the benefits of hard work through volunteering. Just as you can instill a sense of financial charity, you can also help your child learn to be a responsible citizen through community service.

Instill Financial Values in Your Children

No matter how old your children are, you can give them a headstart on life by instilling positive financial values. Teach your kids about earning, saving, spending, and giving away money. Above all else, it’s essential to practice what you preach when it comes to financial literacy. Involving your children in financial activities is incredibly important, but modeling good behavior can make all the difference.

Our friends at Copper and Greenlight provide excellent resources for families looking to save and teach about fiscal responsibility.

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