There is not a one size fits all approach to teaching your children how to think about money. We all come from different backgrounds and have our own opinions and beliefs about money.
And if you’re a parent to multiple children – you know all too well that each child has their own personality. The way you discuss money and teach money concepts to one child may be very different for the next.
Your methods or messaging in teaching children about money may differ but there are 4 main elements to utilizing our money and it will be important to address each one with your children over time.
A significant portion of a child’s first understanding of money is around how to spend it. They watch their parents go to the store and shop around for this and that – buy a toy or buy groceries for the week and they start connecting the dots between money and purchases.
Ok – so we go to work so we can make money. Then we go to the store to buy things that we want or need with the money that we’ve made. Got it.
They associate money with spending and that’s important – they learn this without much guidance from us.
The next step will take effort on your part and open conversations with your children about money. Taking the connection between money and spending one step further to introduce the concept of spending on things they need vs things they want.
We can discuss with them about the reality that we have to use our money towards items we need to live. That we buy things that provide us security – like a home to live in. Like clothes – to keep us warm. Like food – to keep us from going hungry.
But we also have freedom to choose to spend on things that will make us happy or bring us joy – items we may not need but are adding value to our lives in a different way.
Help them to understand their options and give them the freedom to decide if it’s something worth their hard earned money or not. This freedom to decide will empower them to start thinking intentionally about money and instill confidence in their decision making.
Making their own decisions about how to use their money is an important life skill.
The conversation will start shifting gears that not only is money utilized for spending, but saving is a significant element to our money journey as well. Connecting the idea that not every dollar earned needs to be spent right away.
Learning to save is an essential money habit as it teaches children the notion of discipline and delayed gratification. Saving also introduces the idea of creating a goal and making a plan to achieve it.
We can help our children in understanding that if they want that one particular item, but don’t have enough money for it yet, that there are steps that can be taken to be able to afford what they want.
Guide them to problem solve and identify ways to find a solution – how much will we have to save, what can we do in the meantime around the house or selling lemonade in the neighborhood, etc. to earn the extra money required for the item.
Saving money can be exciting when it is a relevant and achievable goal for our youngsters.
They will understand that savings also provides them a level of freedom, independence and even security. This awareness will help build their confidence around their own money decision making skills.
They will start to intentionally answer questions like, is this worth it or not? What can I do to make it happen? What will I need to sacrifice or give up on in order to achieve this goal?
Helping kids to understand the power of investing will be an invaluable tool for them as time goes on.
For them to understand that there are ways to invest your time, invest your resources and invest your money on things that will in turn create more opportunity or more growth. That there is not one solitary way to make money.
In a very basic way, teaching them that investing allows for that original $10 to potentially be $15 over time through the process of investing and compounding. That due to their patience, consistency and discipline in not spending the funds – they were rewarded with more.
Instilling in them the importance of discipline, commitment to a plan and delayed gratification.
This is an incredible life lesson that we are able to engage in with our kids – the joy of sharing. Helping others, providing for others and using our own resources to support or enhance the joy and life of another person or community.
There is also an element of gratitude that is taught in this lesson. It takes children a while to understand that their same opportunities are not available to everyone. That not everyone has the reliable, safe home base every night, not everyone has a home cooked meal to come home to, or clothes that they get to choose to wear, or not every child has a lineup of every truck or princess doll in their toy storage bin.
It’s an opportunity for them to understand their own opportunity and their own blessings and connect that reality with a desire and responsibility to share it with others in a meaningful way.
Your approach will depend on your own understanding of these concepts, your family values and your relationship with money.
But regardless, these are the 4 utilities of money that are an opportunity for us as caregivers and parents to teach our children and normalize financial education around money. That with money comes opportunity, responsibility, options and joy.
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Past blog post: The 3 ways to save for your children’s future.
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