Personal finance is often learned through experience. Fortunately, you can give your kids a hand-up on their journey to becoming financially responsible adults.
Preschoolers and teenagers obviously have different financial concerns and abilities. But there are a few basic lessons that all children should learn by the time they enter college or start a career:
• Money = choices. Teach your child how to choose between spending and saving, and how to do both intelligently. A regular allowance will help your child gain real-world financial experience.
• Money requires planning. At about age 9 or 10, start to show your child how to develop a simple spending plan. In later years, demonstrate how to plan for larger expenditures.
• Responsibility comes with money. Inevitably, your child is going to make some money mistakes. Try to avoid criticism, but don’t automatically fix every problem and let your child off the hook. Help analyze the reason for the mistake, and suggest how to avoid it in the future.
• Good money management skills are priceless. Specific lessons might range from how to compare interest rates on savings accounts, to the pros and cons of mutual fund investing. But there should be one common element to all of your teaching in this area: money doesn’t take care of itself.
The way you handle your money may be the most powerful lesson of all for your children. For your child’s sake, as well as your own financial wellbeing, it’s important to practice what you preach.