Teaching Kids About Money

As a kid, I certainly had no hesitation about spending the $1 allowance I got every week on Reese’s peanut butter cups and an Archie comic book.

My parents weren’t extravagant spenders—they had four children to raise. My father was a college professor and grew up in Depression times, so he was loath to spend money frivolously. My mother, a homemaker, was more frugal then, but became more of a spender once all of us were financially independent.  We never took expensive vacations, although we had the good fortune to live abroad in England during my father’s sabbaticals.

As a young adult, I had my father help me with my taxes.  I was lucky: as a math professor, he was good with numbers, so I let him take care of my financial affairs.  As a result, I never learned to trust the value of my relationship with money. I never knew where it was coming from or where it was going. In fact, I don’t remember any “lessons” about sharing or saving.

Instead, I developed a sort of complacent relationship with money. “Oh, yeah, it’s there. Great.” was my general worldview. It wasn’t until I settled down and had a family and more responsibilities when I started thinking about how I could improve my relationship with money.

The first step was to make sure my husband and I had open communication about our finances.  We talked about our vision for the present, where we wanted to be a year from now, five years from now, retirement. It’s still a work in progress, but now I feel as though I am much more knowledgeable and confident about what is coming in and going out.

My husband and I discovered, through this process of exploring our past relationships with money, that we both had the same goal in mind: “How are we going to help our kids develop their own healthy relationship with money?”

So starting small, each week the kids divide their allowance into three separate pots:

    the sharing pot: at the end of the year, they get to decide where they want to donate these funds;

     the saving pot: we take a “field trip” every so often to the bank where they proudly make deposits. Withdrawals are just around the corner, I just know it;

     the spending pot: they’re not quite saving up to spend on anything just yet.

If you want to keep it simple, a Moonjar Moneybox  is a simple container with three openings for each of the different purposes.

What’s next?

When they start expressing desire to get something, then we’ll go on to the next level. Get them comparing how much things cost, thinking about how much time it will take to save for that special item, exploring their values (and ours) about what things are important to have.

Maybe they won’t want that ipod after all.

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One Response to Teaching Kids About Money

  1. natalie says:

    Nice post, Elizabeth. We got the Moonjar for our kids this December, and the comartments are slowly filling up. Recently they asked me how much an American Girl doll costs (they are lucky enough to already have several). I told them $100. They immediately decided they would save up for another one on their own. I thought the enormous cost would dissuade them, as I have no intention of buying another one (their extended family all contributed to buying the dolls they have, and all but one are secondhand). But they didn’t seem fazed, just excited that they had a way of working toward it. During spring break I plan to have them count the money from the Spend compartment and ask them what good deed they would like to use it for.

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