Do you remember how you first started learning about money?
Did you set up a lemonade stand? Sell chocolate bars, holiday cards, or Girl Scout cookies? Did you mow lawns, shovel snow or deliver newspapers? Maybe you picked up some wisdom just watching how your parents dealt with household expenses.
Money can feel like a taboo topic in many households. One of the best ways to shake off the awkwardness is to have regular family discussions about money that include everyone in the household, where even the youngest kids can learn and contribute.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Wants vs. Needs
The first step in teaching kids the value of saving is to help them distinguish between wants and needs. Explain that needs include the basics, such as food, shelter, basic clothing, healthcare, and education. Wants are all the extras—from movie tickets and candy to sneakers, video games, or the latest smartphone.
2. Let Them Earn Their Own Money
If you want your children to become savers, allowing them to earn and save money provides them with the opportunity to learn how to use it. When you offer allowances in exchange for chores, they’re also learning the value of their hard work.
3. Set Savings Goals
Helping children define a savings goal can be a better way to get them motivated. If they know what it is they want to save for, help them break down their goals into manageable bites. If they want to buy a $50 video game, for example, and they get a $10 allowance each week, help them figure out how long it will take to reach that goal, based on their savings rate.
4. Provide a Place to Save
For younger kids, this may be a piggy bank, if they’re a little older, you may want to set up their own savings account. At Canopy, we have youth accounts for those 11 and younger, teen accounts for 12-16 years old and young adult accounts for those 17-22 years old.
5. Track Spending
Tracking expenditures is a little easier with a bank or debit card app, but you can also do it the old fashioned way. If your children get an allowance, have them write down their purchases each day and add them up at the end of the week. Encourage them to think about how they’re spending and how much faster they could reach their savings goal if they were to change their spending patterns.
6. Offer Savings Incentives
One of the reasons people save in their employer’s retirement plan is the company’s matching contribution. If your child has set a big savings goal, you could offer to match a percentage of what they’ve saved or reward your kid when they hit a milestone — like a $50 bonus for hitting the halfway mark.
7. Leave Room for Mistakes
Part of putting kids in control of their own money is letting them learn from their errors. It’s tempting to step in and steer kids away from a potentially costly mistake, but it may be better to use that mistake as a teachable moment.
8. Talk About Money
If you want kids to learn about saving, you have to nurture an ongoing discussion. Whether you schedule a regular weekly check-in to talk about money or make money chats part of your daily routine, the key is to keep the conversation going.
9. Set a Good Example
If you want your children to become savers, being one yourself can help. Setting up and funding a savings account for emergencies or simply increasing your retirement plan contributions are all steps that you can take to encourage saving as a family activity. You could also decide to save for something together, such as a big-screen TV, a family vacation, or a pool.