Kids and money: Teaching kids financial responsibility - Michael

Kids and money: Teaching kids financial responsibility

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Teaching your kids about financial responsibility means setting a budget — and deciding what to do when children run afoul of their own guidelines.

One answer is to require them to save their allowances in locked boxes. But since this doesn’t teach restraint and you won’t always be around to oversee savings deposits, there are more instructive ways to make the point.

One method is to make it a game with play money. You can also use various piggy banks to stash away money for different purposes like saving for a certain item, everyday spending, buying gifts, donations, and eventually investing.

If they’ve been receiving your sage financial teachings from an early age, older kids shouldn’t have trouble understanding the concepts of long-term and short-term saving. If not, illustrate the concepts by using goals, as with a new video game a month from now versus a bicycle this summer.

Remind them of these goals to keep them from straying.

The more worthy and ambitious the long-term goal, the more you may want to consider matching grants to reward your child’s savings discipline. These grants can be anywhere from 1.25 to 1 to 3 or 4 to 1.

Younger kids understandably have trouble grasping off-site savings, so the best mechanism for them is often a piggy bank for coins and a wallet for bills. Count the money with them periodically and tell them how close they’ve come to their goals. Above all, praise their progress.

Once kids reach the age of 9 or 10, they’re more amenable to banks. Quantitatively adept kids of this age can understand the concept of interest rates. Until they’re old enough to handle a checking account, kids may take withdrawals as cashier’s checks or money orders.

The best way to encourage sound spending habits is to exhibit them. When planning a trip to the grocery or discount store, get your kids involved in making a judicious list and sticking to it. This will teach them to avoid the bane of all savers: impulse buying.

For big-ticket items, show them how to do the research: reading articles and reviews, comparing prices, negotiating with salesmen.

Doubtless, an occasional purchase will be defective. No problem. Use this to demonstrate the importance of saving sales receipts and reviewing warranties. When you return the goods, take your kids along and show them how to overcome salesmen’s arguments.


Mike Smeriglio III is a financial specialist. A licensed CPA since 1985, Mike has been providing tax preparation services to individuals and businesses for more than 30 years through his firm located in Greenwich, CT.