Money Sense for Young Kids

Contributed by: Matt Trujillo, CFP® Matt Trujillo

As a dad of two young boys, I read and think a lot on how to teach my sons about how to handle money.

Even before my boys could count, they already knew something about money: it's what they had to give the ice cream man to get a cone, or put in the slot to ride the rocket ship at the grocery store. So, as soon as your children begin to handle money, start teaching them how to handle it wisely.

Making Allowances

Giving children an allowance is a good way to begin teaching them how to save money and budget for the things they want. How much you give them depends in part on what you expect them to buy with it and how much you want them to save.

Some parents expect children to earn their allowance by doing household chores, while others attach no strings to the purse and expect children to pitch in simply because they live in the household. A compromise might be to give children small allowances coupled with opportunities to earn extra money by doing chores that fall outside their normal household responsibilities.

When it comes to giving children allowances:

  • Set parameters. Discuss with your children what they may use the money for and how much should be saved.
  • Make allowance day a routine, like payday. Give the same amount on the same day each week.
  • Consider "raises" for children who manage money well.

Take it to the Bank

Piggy banks are a great way to start teaching children to save money, but opening a savings account in a "real" bank introduces them to the concepts of earning interest and the power of compounding.

While children might want to spend all their allowance now, encourage them (especially older children) to divide it up, allowing them to spend some immediately, while insisting they save some towards larger ticket items they really want but can't afford right away. Writing down each goal and the amount that must be saved each week toward it will help children learn the difference between short-term and long-term goals. As an incentive, you might want to offer to match whatever children save toward their long-term goals.

Shopping Sense

Television commercials and peer pressure constantly tempt children to spend money. Therefore, children need guidance when it comes to making good buying decisions. Teach children how to compare items by price and quality. When you're at the grocery store, for example, explain why you might buy a generic cereal instead of a name brand.

When it comes to shopping with children who want you to buy them every little thing they see, take a moment to explain your “yes” and “no” decisions. By explaining that you won't buy them something every time you go to a store, you can lead children into thinking carefully about the purchases they do want to make. Then, consider setting aside one day a month when you will take children shopping for them. This encourages them to save for something they really want rather than buying on impulse. For those big-ticket items, suggest that they might put those items on a birthday or holiday list.

Finally, don't be afraid to let children make mistakes. If a toy breaks soon after it's purchased or doesn't turn out to be as much fun as seen on TV, eventually children will learn to make good choices even when you're not there to give them advice. For more tips on how to raise Money Smart Kids, check out our webinar on the topic!

Matthew Trujillo, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Matt currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered.

The views expressed herein are those of Matthew Trujillo and are not necessarily those of Raymond James.