Many of us grew up learning that “money doesn’t grow on trees” without learning the actual concept of money, and more important — how to save it. Thankfully with the onset of social media, a better understanding of financial literacy and just more resources for parents, there are plenty of practical ways to teach children these money lessons that will last them through adulthood.
“If you want to teach your kids how to save money, it’s a really easy concept that anyone can do,” says Marsha Barnes of the Finance Bar. “If you are giving them any type of allowance, it is the “save, spend, give” approach. And for our little ones, that is just a matter of getting three mason jars, and having them decorate it. Put save on one, spend on one, give on another. Or you could just use show boxes and have them to decorate it. It’s a really great way for them not only to learn about the importance of spending, but the balance of giving and spending.”
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Teaching kids — especially Black kids — how to budget and save isn’t really an option. It’s essential. “Many people don’t just save money,” says Barnes. “They also spend money. They give to charities each year. It’s a perfect balance of being able to educate your children on the importance of what that looks like.” According to research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, children are “developmentally capable’’ of saving at age 5. Allowances are fine, but the real benefit came with parental guidance on saving, budgeting and spending. It creates habits that allow them to effectively manage their finances as adults.
Barnes offers simple ways to do so, even for older kids. She advises, “If you have pre-teens or even teenagers who have their own jobs, it’s having them be responsible with identifying ways of spending.” Do you want the new cell phone? How much does the cell phone cost? How much would you spend per month? “It’s allowing them to calculate what that looks like by having a little mini-budget,” she continues.
“It puts the real life aspect, as a quick and easy way to teach them,” says Barnes. “And they’ll learn more as they get older, but it’s a really great way to start.”
Budgets shouldn’t be about making big restrictive changes — a major lesson that children and even parents need to learn and put into practice. Rather, when you examine your finances, you see small ways to make changes that will have big effects. “We try our best to skip budgeting because we really don’t want to know what the numbers tell us,” says Barnes. “That’s why many people don’t want to look at the numbers. The numbers tell us that we can do some things, but we can’t do everything — but we can’t do everything… our numbers will tell us the truth. It’s the same for kids, and it’s the same for adults.”
As you’re teaching your kids these essential money lessons, it’s also important to practice what you preach. “If we didn’t learn it last year, savings is extremely important in the times we don’t know what certainty looks like anymore,” says Barnes.