By Ginny Miller, wellness coach
Teaching children about finances
Does this thought at times cross your mind? “If only my kids understood what things cost.” I know I held this thought for many years.
I have never wanted my children to “worry” about finances. That is mine to carry. At times when our children’s needs and wants just don’t quite fit into our budget each month, we may not know what to do. I would often respond with, “Well not right now, because it just won’t fit into the budget.” As for my kiddo, this word “budget” really did not have a concrete meaning.
It occurred to me that perhaps it might be important for him to learn and understand budgeting. First we took a trip to our bank and opened a savings account for him. That was fun, but it did not achieve the goal I had hoped for. Earning an allowance was important, yet it burned through his pocket like molten lava each week. We talked about the importance of saving up for important things, but the message I hoped for him to have about planning ahead with finances didn’t seem to break through.
My own habits were in place for following my income and expenses as well as monitoring daily for any errors in my accounts. Once my bank offered an app for my phone to help me track my money, I had information at my fingertips daily. It became easier to see what I have and I sometimes surprised myself as I watched where my money went.
I wondered if the phone app might appeal to my child as well. We went back to the bank and opened a debit account for him that I controlled. I can add or remove funds, and he has an app on his phone allowing easy visual access to his money and spending.
I discovered that this can become an empowering resource. Children and teens have a desire for independence, and this seemed to boost his sense of independence as well as give him a better understanding of how to budget money.
I began to see and hear words from him that expressed pride, a better ability to plan, and questions that led to conversations around money. Just this morning my child announced that there was one more dollar in his account than the day before, and that he had a plan and was saving for something important. Wow, what a change!
More than the understanding of how to create a budget had occurred for him. He now has a stronger sense of responsibility, greater pride in his ability to plan, and, most importantly, better understanding of how to create and stick to his financial goals.
As I look back on my childhood, I realize I had very little training in this area. Though my parents clearly did budget and sacrifice financially for my benefit, it would be many years before I truly understood that path. I am happy to start working with my child now on learning how to manage finances. Financial knowledge can be fun, empowering, and, more than that, it shifts the energy around money from feeling scary to just being a part of everyday life.
Tip: Look up apps available to support children and teens in creating and using a budget, planning for the future, and saving money. Your bank or credit union may also have classes or programs to support you and your child in this area.