Teaching kids about money and money management is more important than ever. Kids are pretty smart. And the sooner parents begin teaching kids smart money habits, the better chances that those great habits will stick.
But what are the most important money lessons to teach kids? Is it savings? Or how about the importance of giving? This is where the parenting job gets a bit challenging. Knowing what age to start, and what money lessons to teach kids is just as important for parents, as the lessons are for kids.
The good news is that most kids already understand the concept of money and value by preschool age. This is mainly due to the use of money or tokens in video games and mobile gaming apps. But you can use this early adoption of money and value to your parenting advantage.
“By age 3, your kids can grasp basic money concepts,” explained Beth Kobliner in a PBS NewsHour article. “By age 7, many of their money habits are already set.”
To begin your money management journey with kids, we put together a few important money lessons to teach kids by middle school.
Money lesson to teach kids #1. Saving money is good
This can be an important lesson to teach as early as preschool. Saving money is the hallmark of good money management, since the more money you have, the more financial wellness you have.
How do you teach kids as young as 3 or 4 years old that saving money is good? Get visual and tactile with this important lesson. For example, you can use a clear jar or clear piggy bank to show how saving money adds up.
If kids find coins, or if kids are getting allowance, they can put the money in the clear jar to watch the savings compile over time. When the jar or piggy bank is full, you can empty out the savings treasure and count it up.
Money lesson to teach kids #2. Everything costs money
Well, everything but your unrelentlessly love for them costs money. Teaching kids that things cost money is another important lesson that parents can implement into daily life. But telling a child that a new toy they want costs $10 won’t be enough, a more lesson-minded approach is needed.
For example, you can use that savings jar. When your child wants a toy for $10, you can count out $10 from the savings jar and show them how much savings will be gone if the toy is purchased.
This works in another way too. If there is only $7 in the savings jar, but the toy costs $10, the importance of saving money is strengthened.
Money lesson to teach kids #3. Instill opportunity cost
This is a money lesson that can have long-term value for kids. Opportunity cost is something parents deal with on a daily basis. If you buy the new dishwasher, you may not be able to install the backyard fence until next summer. These opportunity cost decisions happen all the time in grown-up life. Why not teach your kids this lesson?
Let’s say your child wants the latest and greatest video game. But they also want new summer water toys. You can teach opportunity cost to help them weigh decisions and outcomes.
Money lesson to teach kids #4. Teach giving
Another important money lesson to teach kids by middle school is not about saving or budgeting, but about philanthropy. Giving can be as valuable as the money you're teaching kids to manage, because it can build strong character.
Teaching your child about giving can be done in a number of ways. For example, you can sponsor a child through a philanthropic foundation, letting him or her donate a portion of their savings each month. Kids may even get a penpal out of it.
You and your child can also go to the grocery store and use savings to buy canned goods and donate them to help feed children in need. These giving examples can really change how kids think about money and its value.
Money lesson to teach kids #5. Use technology to teach
Technology is a big part of life, for adults and kids. Most kids have or use a tablet or smartphone. According to NPR, 50 percent of kids own a smartphone by age 11. Tethering technology with money lessons to teach kids can be very beneficial.
This is why we created Treasure, an educational money app for kids. Now kids can use an app to track savings, allowance, and learn important money management skills via their smartphones. You can learn more about the Treasure App here.
Teaching kids about money has long-term value
Kids are intelligent, and most kids have a pretty good idea about money and value by the time they reach middle school. Teaching kids about money management early is not just a lesson, but an investment in their future. How have you instilled good money habits in your children?