How to teach personal finance to kids

Back when my siblings and I were younger we were often jealous of our friends who got an allowance. Our parents raised us on the mindset that they had the money and we were dead broke. Our allowance was the roof over our head and the food on our table. I could ask for five dollars to bike to the store with my friends, but that didn’t mean I was going to get it. I now have a good understanding of money, as do some kids who grew up with an allowance.  Both schools of thought can be effective in teaching kids about financing, as long as a respect for money grows along the way. No matter which approach you choose, here are some tips for better teaching your kids about money.


Pay your kids their allowance

If you decide to give your kids an allowance, it is important that you make sure they earn it. Discuss why they are getting money, and what is expected of them. Help your children develop a healthy respect for earning. Some experts believe that giving allowance for the completion of chores is one of the best ways to teach children about earning money.

Give your kids a chance to earn

In my house doing chores was part of your contribution to the family, but we still had an opportunity to earn. Having a list of “jobs” apart from normal chores was our way of making some extra money. Even if you give your kids a “free” allowance, writing out a list of extra work with a visible payout will increase their respect for money. On more than one occasion, my friends would invite me to lunch while I was low on cash and I would beg my mother if I could wash her car to put a few bucks in my wallet.


Encourage budgeting

There are many ways to approach budgeting with your kids, like discussing how to make the allowance last more than a day or even using an app to help them map out their money. Budgeting can be taught at any age, and your kids may surprise you. Next time your young child asks for something at the store, tell them you will give them ten dollars to spend on whatever they want, but not a cent over. If they are anything like I was, they will go into Will Hunting mode, run the numbers and come back with nine dollars and ninety-nine cents if not a flat ten dollar in loot.

Help them open a bank account

Once your child reaches an age in which you feel comfortable letting them keep their own money, take them to open a bank account. During this process, answer any questions they have. Show them how to use the services that come with an account to help track spending, make payments, and earn interest. One of the largest complaints from college aged students is that personal finance was not taught in high school, with many still not knowing how to write a check.


Encourage your teens to get a job

Turning sixteen is a big deal for teenagers in a lot of states, because that means they can get their driver’s license. The day I turned sixteen I upgraded my permit to a license and drove around applying at any place with a help wanted sign. Getting work experience at an early age has countless benefits, not the least of which is the financial lessons that will be learned. Many of you like myself know that working for minimum to low wages can provide a new take on earning and spending. A new pair of shoes no longer has a dollar value, it now costs ten and a half hours of work.

Don’t bail them out

Once your kids are earning a good bit of money, chances are they are going to do a good bit of spending as well. Not all of the spending is bound to be savvy shopping and if they find themselves in a hole, do not dig them out. Even if you don’t normally employ the tough love approach in parenting you have to think about their financial future. When you don’t bail them out you are teaching them a much needed lesson about living within their means. I learned what was beyond my means from a six-hundred-dollar cell phone bill. Apparently the phrase “free nights and weekends,” didn’t register with me.

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