Kids and Money: It’s Never Too Early to Start Teaching
My husband and I want to have emotionally well-adjusted kids so we work at it. We use “I feel” statements. We model empathy to our girls with phrases like, “I understand you feel frustrated.” We debrief and revisit emotionally charged situations - good and bad – to understand our triggers, our actions and the consequences of our choices.
We do these same things with money too. We desire financially responsible kids. To achieve that we talk about money with them and we are transparent about how we make financial decisions. In a non-judgmental way we reflect on financial choices we’ve made to extract important lessons from them.
Did I mention that my kids are just 3 and 5 years old? My objective in starting this conversation with them at such a young is simple: I don’t want money to be a taboo subject for my kids.
My mom is a fabulous mother, but she and I never had “the talk.” You know, the one about how girls get their period, where babies come from and practical things like how to shave your legs. Those were unspoken topics in our house. Without my mom’s guiding voice, I turned to magazines, friends and a couple sex ed classes at school for my information.
I don’t want my kids to get their financial guidance from the society around us. The prominent financial message in our culture is consume. Buy big. Live large. And, even, pay for it later. That is not the advice I want them to live by.
I’m not having conversations about investment accounts, my salary and the financial system with my girls. At their ages we look for teachable moments in our everyday situations to reinforce our core beliefs. Opportunities abound to teach simple money principles and give them with spending and saving choices.
For example, last summer we were at a local thrift store on a day when everything storewide was 50% off. My oldest daughter had wanted a Barbie doll for quite some time. In the toy aisle we spotted a plastic bag containing 8-12 naked Barbies. At first my daughter was excited to see them, but she got deflated when she realized they didn’t have any clothes.
I seized the teachable moment by giving her a choice. She could get this entire bag of naked Barbies or she could get 1 brand-new Barbie at the mall. Whichever she wanted, she could have.
She asked, “I want these, since there are more, but how will I get clothes for these naked Barbies?”. We brainstormed some potential solutions – including putting them on her Christmas list and asking relatives to give them to her for Christmas.
With that she decided that she’d rather play with naked Barbies for a few months, than have one single brand-new Barbie now. She explained her motivation, “I can’t play Barbies with my sister or friends if I only have one.”
She experienced delayed gratification, the thrill of a bargain and sharing all through that single choice. Your kids are never too young to start thinking about money.