Parents play such an important role in the lives of their children. Behaviors, habits, and skills are picked up early and set the precedent for how well (or how bad) their kid(s) will do in the future. Many believe that you have to have everything together to teach your kid(s) good habits and skills, but that is certainly not true!
If parents waited to have everything together before teaching their kids important skills, we wouldn’t have half of the companies, inventions, and tools that exist today.
You can teach your kids smart money habits, even if your money situation isn’t ideal. Here are five ways you can teach your kids smart money habits.
1. Talk positively about money
Kids listen to everything we say, and they take what they hear to heart. If you’re constantly complaining about how broke you are or how many bills you have to pay, your kids will begin to believe that’s the way money works! Instead, begin to have positive conversations about money. Talk about the financial goals you have or some of the solutions that may help get you from point A to B when it comes to money. Show them that money doesn’t always equal bad, even if your financial situation sucks right now.
2. Keep them involved
Involve your kids in the process of managing finances and achieving financial goals. If you’re in the process of paying down debt, try making a chart listing the things you want to pay off and how far you have to go. Make it like a game or some sort of reward system. For example, if you pay off a bill, the family gets to do something fun. If you’re working on a savings goal, you can also make a chart that shows what you’re saving for. Getting the kids involved is another way of talking about money in a positive way because they already know where your extra money is going and why. You can also do goal charts where the kids can list some of the things they want and together you work out a plan for them to get it. I’m not saying tell them all of the nitty gritty details about what’s going on with your finances, but include them in your process as much as you can based on their age.
3. Be honest
One of best financial skills you can teach your kids is to be honest. Be honest about your current financial situation by being realistic about what you can and cannot afford. If you have to use a credit card for the latest toys and gadgets, you realistically can’t afford them. Let your kids know they may not get what they want right now, but together you can come up with a plan and a time frame for when they may be able to get it. You’ll have to tailor the conversation to fit the age of your children, of course. Teach your kids to be frugal and to know the difference between a need and a want. I’m not saying cheap out on your kids, but create limitations based on what will work in your budget.
4. Lead by example
Kids watch their parents! If they see you balancing your accounts on a regular basis, setting goals, and paying your bills on time; they will pick up on that behavior. Being an example also ties in with positive money conversations, involvement, and being honest because these combined will make a difference on how well they pick up your behaviors. For example, my mom has always balanced her accounts and paid her bills on time, so naturally when I became an adult I did the same. However, my mom never talked to me about money. I didn’t really know why I needed to check my account and pay my bills because we never had a real conversation about it. I didn’t learn or understand how to use those behaviors to strengthen my finances until after I made several mistakes. Lead by example, but also explain why.
5. Give them experience
The best way to give a kid experience with money is to let them handle their own. Open a free savings account and let them do their own deposits. Talk to them about dividing up their money for giving, savings, and spending. Even if they may only get a dollar or a few cents per week, allow them to handle it. If they want treats while they’re out with you, ask them if they have enough spending money to get it. You can support them with their purchases, but the older they get the less “support” they should need for their treats. For teenagers, open a free teen checking account where they’re able to get a debit card. You as the parent will still have access to their account and be able to set limitations, but it gives them the opportunity to learn banking hands on.
You don’t need to be wealthy to teach these smart money habits!
Use your tools and resources to learn and grow as a family financially. No one is perfect, and that includes parents, so work with what you have and your kids will thank you later!