Money is a topic that stresses out some parents so much, they may hesitate to tackle it with their kids. ParentMap's Hilary Benson joins us now to talk about how to make sure kids are "money smart."
The challenge of teaching money management
Teaching kids the value of money is a challenge in part because bills are being used less and less. More of our banking and bill paying is online and virtual, so we're not paying in cash or even writing checks anymore. It's just little mouse clicks where money silently seeps out of our bank accounts.
Parents need to make this idea of money management real to kids. Summer is a great time of year to do this - more kids have jobs and are making their own money.
For younger kids, in school they learn about money and numbers in early elementary school, so they're aware at a young age. Parents need to capture that awareness and then give significance to those dollar amounts as kids earn an allowance or make their own money.
Teaching financial literacy
- Create a Budget
Help them learn about income and expenses. Adults don't like budgets either, but they help make choices. If they want to save for designer jeans then they have a target to save for. Or have them pay for their portion of the family cell phone bill.
- Take Financial Field Trips
We talk about this in our Money Smart article in ParentMap this month -- put them in charge of the trip to the grocery store or restaurant. Many teens don't know how to calculate tax or a tip at a restaurant. A teen should know how to calculate 15% before they're out on their own.
- Open bank accounts with teens
When they're younger, you might start with a savings account where they can put in birthday money they get from relatives or if they save up allowance. As they get older, open a teen checking account, where they get a debit card separate from the savings account in case they lose it.
Encourage kids to research, and challenge them to find less expensive options. Have them come up with a budget that allows them to achieve their goal and also involves some sacrifice.
Why we avoid talking about money
It's a tension filled topic for so many adults. It's the last thing they want to talk about with their kids - they'd rather have them focus on studying hard, doing well in school or activities.
They may believe that money-talk is inappropriate. Not everything is the kids' business, but there is plenty that's fair game for discussion.
And for some parents, they may be uncomfortable with finances themselves.
Pros and cons of an allowance
In a book called "Time Worth Spending, Your Guide to Teaching Financial Literacy," authors say teens can and should help out around the house with chores like dishes, laundry, caring for pets, things that make the household run smoothly and they don't need to get paid for those.
But it's okay for them to earn money within the household too - bigger things that you might hire someone else to do, for instance mowing the lawn, or babysitting younger siblings.
That's the bonus of an allowance - you can work together on goals for saving, maybe giving to charity, and then what's left for spending.