Parents are constantly teaching their children. “Monkey see, monkey do” is not just a game or saying; it is really how children reflect the actions of adults to learn a thing. Mimicking or copying adult ways in their formative years is the beginning of their education.
It is not enough for parents to want their children to thrive. Modeling good habits and behaviors are daily learning opportunities, but this doesn’t mean that every step taken by parents has to be without mistakes. There is a lesson in every misstep. Teach from the successes and failures. Don’t be afraid to show and share the resolutions to the issues that the family experiences. This guidance is true for life lessons in relationships, education, spiritual development, emotional growth, and finances.
Money is sometimes treated as a taboo conversation, so children are not burdened with adult business. This mindset sometimes leaves our youth at such a disadvantage in life skills – paying bills, obtaining and maintaining credit, purchasing a house or vehicle, negotiating pay rates and salaries, price comparison, budgeting, and many other financial activities. On-the-job training is not the best play for everything.
Here are four things to normalize money talks within the family:
(1) Involve the children in the family’s economy.
Whether your money talks are scheduled or spontaneous, consider including the kids. Teaching children that stuff costs money is their first awareness. Lights, gas, and water are not free and have to be paid for everyone to continue using them. Housing has a cost, and if not fulfilled, a cascade of difficult decisions occur. At least, the talk is a chance to discuss your money philosophy and a math lesson for the kids.
(2) Talk about money to demystify how it is used and why.
Talk with your kids about money being a long play instead of a moment for short-term consumption. Saving, investing, and budgeting all take discipline and requires deferred gratification. We live in a microwave culture, where everything is accessible – now! Shortcuts to everything are posted online every day, so teaching your kid to wait is a heavy lift. Patience is in their favor because time and the gift of compound interest will reward their efforts in due season.
(3) Budgets are dreams that are critically examined.
Budgets are financial tools, like calculators. The best thing about budgets is that you have all authority over their content. Your money philosophy is crystallized in a budget. You and your kids can discuss needs vs. wants and savings goals for things like vacations, school trips, musical instruments, toys, Christmas, etc. The children can help narrow down streaming services to one or two, not all of them. They can help with grocery shopping to stay within the budget by using cost comparison and couponing. They can learn to cut off lights and unplug unused devices because it helps with utility costs. The more we save, the more we can potentially do.
(4) Have the kids start one penny at a time – every cent counts.
Start with what your child has, and start now; use a piggy bank, glass jar, can, sock, bowl, or whatever holds their money. Teach kids to save when they are young—saving for something builds character, and there are many lessons along the way to meeting their goal. Investing is also a great money principle that can be started young. There are stocks that trade for less than $5 per share. Just think about all the math kids can encounter, like calculations for interest, debits, credits, fees, and the vocabulary they are learning, like pending, account, stock, bond, balance, deposit, and withdrawal.
Normalize money talks in your family. Kids can be amazing little conversation partners on the road to financial freedom. Make it engaging and fun!