October starts this week. A time of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. Kids are discussing who to go as for Halloween – if trick-or-treating is even going to be something they can do. Fear is abundant as we look at the last quarter of the year, fiscal health for the holidays, and the fear of sickness. All things scary.
This month I am hoping to tackle some of the scary things I get asked about when it comes to parenting a special. The number one questions I am asked about is what happened when we found out about the life-changing diagnosis; I recommend checking out The Moment for more on that.
Today, I am going to attempt to tackle one of the scariest things people deal with in life – finances. This is a constant fear for most, especially as the unemployment rate rises in America. I was blessed to have parents who taught me the value of work and a dollar. Because of these lessons, I graduated with my undergraduate degree debt-free and paid off my student loans for graduate degree 2.5 years early.
Understanding finances starts young and should be taught in all households. A good understanding of finances will lead to less stress, less debt, and a healthier economy.
How do you teach finances to children? It can be hard, especially if you do not feel comfortable with finances in the first place. So here are six steps we use with our kid to help him understand finances as he gets older.
1. Talk about it: One of the most common things I hear from young adults is they do not know anything about finances. And really, why should they? We stopped teaching it in schools and 62% of America is in credit card debt with 62% of credit card debtors as college graduates! I often encounter people who explain their collection accounts, late payments, and bankruptcy due to being “young and immature.” This is really a claim of ignorance. If we want our children to be out of debt, we have to teach them from the get-go. We have to let them know that food they eat costs money, that light they are using costs money, and those clothes they like cost money. That money only comes from hard work. There is a balance. Talk about it.
2. Teach work ethic: Chores are an excellent way to teach work ethic. Having chores for as long as I can remember, taught me to balance, allowed me to work multiple jobs in college while going to school time and a half (and having a social life), and how to creatively think through problems. Work ethic will benefit children, families, and communities. Good work ethic is reflected in showing up on time and completing the task on time the right way with a good attitude. This should be reflecting in their chores and school work. Teaching these young will help ensure our children have this ingrained in them when they enter the workforce. A good work ethic will lead to better opportunities through more recommendations, higher bonuses, and promotions.
3. Teach giving: This is essential and often left out of finance conversations. If you don’t want to give money, try volunteering. This is a great way to change perspective and priorities. Financial giving is financially sound. This helps encourage budgeting by helping you shift priorities. We practice a 10% rule with my son. It is an easy number mathematically for him to understand. Whenever he gets money (for work done or as a gift), we immediately take 10% and save it for whatever he wants to give to. Sometimes it is the church, sometimes it is the zoo, sometimes it is buying a meal for a homeless person. He gets to pick.
4. Teach saving: This one is hard for most people in our instantaneous world. We are gratified instantly in almost all we do in the first world. We watch as three bubbles pop up on a screen showing a response to our message. We can stream almost any movie and binge-watch entire seasons of shows. Waiting is not something Americans, and most first-world people, are comfortable with. Saving is something that can actually financially save you. To help our little one, we also immediately take 10% of his money and put it into savings. This is what is used for unexpected expenses as adults (the car tire blew out or pipes blew). This account can also be used to save for vacations, new toys, and special experiences. Our son is saving toward a trip to Sea World to meet marine biologists and a loftier goal of adding a red panda exhibit to our local zoo.
5. Teach taxes: As a political scientist, I find teaching this concept is really difficult. Taxes are often taken right out of the check upfront, so when you calculate a budget, this number is very important. Taxes are designed to pay for things like that pothole-free street you drive on daily. Taxes pay for that public library and park you enjoy taking the kids to. Taxes pay for those firefighters who fight fires so you don’t have to. Taxes are helpful to each community. Taxes are paid either upfront or on tax day, but they are paid. We teach our son this but taking 10% of his income immediately and setting it aside in a Taxes account. This way, when he breaks something in the house (which is inevitable), the money to fix it is there. He paid his taxes, so that glass/towel rack/doorknob, etc. he broke can be replaced. The household tax teaches him about the income tax and where that money should go. A great resource for kids on taxes and finances is Finances 101 for Kids: Money Lessons Children Cannot Afford to Miss.
6. Teach budgeting: Budgeting is hard. It takes self-control and patience. When practiced regularly, it is actually quite easy and helps prevent that dreaded debt we all hate so much. Teaching our children this valuable tool is life-changing. Budgeting ensures you always have enough money for what you need and those things that are important for you. It also helps you shoot for a goal. If your hourly $10.00 job is insufficient, it gives you a goal target for where you want to be. Below is an excel spreadsheet that we use for our kiddo that helps. It is filled in with an example. Sometimes seeing the budget in black and white helps change a concept to concrete practice.
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