With children as young as age 7 developing money habits that can last a lifetime, the sooner they begin to develop a positive relationship with money, the better their money skills will be.
But for many parents with children between the ages of 6 and 12, when, how and where to teach their children how to handle money can be daunting.
Should a parent sit with a child in a formal setting or should they use ‘life moments’ to discuss money concepts are common questions I receive from parents all of the time. My answer to both is yes.
Focusing on the here and now, a good starting point for any parent is to use those life moments to share some key money knowledge. Remember, it doesn’t have to be comprehensive, just relevant and at the right moment, so here goes:
At the ATM
With the rise in contactless payments, the ATM is probably a little less visited these days but that does not mean it is never visited. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We Irish still love our cash and we continue to be one of the highest users of cash across the Eurozone. So, this is a great starting point to share some money knowledge. Just to get the conversation going, a parent, grandparent or guardian should use the moment to explain how the ATM holds the money made by working hard and saving. Be select in your conversation and remember to point out that an ATM is not a magic machine in the wall that hands out money but rather, it is part of the journey your money takes from earning, to saving and finally to spending. Also, point out that as part of this money journey, when you work, more money goes into your bank account and when you spend, more money comes out.
At the supermarket
Again, another great place to have a money chat! For starters, as you walk through the various food aisles, discuss why different items have different prices. Also, don’t forget to explore litres of milk, or orange juice or sodas and compare why some may cost less than others. Ask the child what they think might be the reason for this. Discuss how it is possible to pay less for similar items. Use the shopping time to discuss how to get better value for money by shopping around and comparing prices.
Paying monthly bills
This might be more suited to older kids but it can be used for all ages. So, the next time you receive a utility bill (electricity), use the opportunity to discuss what it is. You can also do this if you receive bills online simply by reviewing them on a mobile or tablet. First, examine the cash amount of the bill. If your electricity bill is for €50, €100 or €150, discuss how long you have to work to earn that money, this will help create the connection between work and income and also, if you want; taxes. Use the time to highlight that for every €100 you earn, €10 or more is taken in taxes.
Doing a spending budget
If your family has never done a yearly family budget, this might be a great reason to start. Budgeting is a central part of a healthy financial situation and key to good money management. So, even if you only manage to sit down once a year to plan out your family finances, include your kids. This will provide them with an opportunity to see all of the income needed to pay all of the bills necessary just to live.
If you plan to take a holiday or even a short break, include kids in looking for the best accommodation deals, or best airline fares. It can be a fantastic opportunity to get them to think about shopping around for value.
Remember, money skills are skills for life that will stand the test of time. If you get your kids hooked on good money habits early in life, it will be one of the best life skills they will have thanks to you!
Frank Conway is founder of MoneyWhizz.org. It teaches better money skills across Ireland in primary schools, secondary schools and with leading employers as a key benefit.