When it comes to financial literacy, today’s children have a lot to learn. As responsible parents, we use every opportunity to teach our kids some financial responsibility and give them a chance to practice what they’ve learned in real life situations.
In 2013 survey funded by Merrill Lynch Foundation, Jump$tart coalition tested high school seniors in the areas of credit, savings, tax preparation, life insurance investments and retirement planning. The students answered only 48% of the questions correctly, down about 4 points in a similar survey in 2010. Although what is considered a passing score of this survey is still being debated, it demonstrates that teens who are about to graduate and enter either the work force or college are not prepared for financial independence.
So, what can parents do to increase the financial literacy of their children? And when is the best time to start?
Well, while financial experts can’t designate a specific age to begin, most say the sooner the better. This idea is easy to understand. After all, when a parent asks a young child where money comes from, they are likely to answer Mom or Dad or, even worse, the ATM. Conceptually, young children don’t comprehend the relationship between a parent’s job and the money coming out of the slot. Still, they can learn simple lessons at an early age.
Frank Tehel, Virginia Beach financial advisor and the owner of Investor’s Tax Services, income tax preparation company, gives practical advice on how to introduce financial literacy and money management concepts to your children:
- Include your child in financial transactions. If possible, have your child with you when you cash your paycheck, pay bills, and make regular deposits to your savings account. Explain comparison shopping at the grocery store as you choose cereals and snacks. Include the whole family in decisions about whether to purchase significant items today or put the money away for a vacation or trip next summer.
- Give your child an allowance to manage independently. A weekly allowance given with the understanding that certain chores are part of being a contributing family member can help provide a learning opportunity. Provide enough for necessary expenditures (e.g., school lunches) plus some discretionary funds. Discuss the pros and cons of spending the money in different ways.
- Create opportunities for your child to earn extra cash for special events or personal items. Discuss the difference between whims, wants, and needs, and give your child regular opportunities to save and see how savings can earn money in the form of interest. This will help them with the first steps toward investment planning in future.
- Demonstrate the importance of giving. It may be difficult to show your child the effects of poverty, but it can help teach two valuable lessons: the importance of charitable giving and how money can be used to help others.
The saying, “children learn what they live” is true not only for instilling moral values, but also for arming a child with the necessary tools for sound money management. Teaching your children the fundamentals of personal finance now may help them build a financially independent future.