When it comes to getting what they want, kids are quick studies. Why not use that trait to teach your kids how to manage money from an early age? These days, many adults are learning the importance of fiscal responsibility the hard way. You can save your kids from those hard lessons by making them money savvy from the beginning.
Here are some strategies you can use to instill solid financial habits in your children early:
1. Give your kids a regular allowance. Establishing a regular income for your kids in the form of an allowance is key to teach a child how to make a budget (see strategy No. 2). Your child’s age can determine his allowance (for example, $1 per year of life) or it can be linked to chores or tasks. Make sure the allowance is enough to cover the expenses you expect your child to fund, however. If you expect your child to buy lunches each day, for example, make sure the allowance is enough to pay for that plus a little more for other expenses.
2. Help your child make a budget. Getting your child in the habit of creating and managing a budget will prevent many financial difficulties in the future. Help your child prioritize what is import to her, and together create a budget that allocates her allowance to those things. Go over the importance of saving, investing and charitable giving in addition to spending. Suggest a percentage of your child’s allowance go toward those goals. Teach your child to separate her allowance as soon as she gets it into difference categories for spending, savings, investment and charitable giving. (And check out MainStreet's review of a piggy bank that does just that.)
3. Let your child take financial responsibility for some large purchases. As your child gets older, let him take on the responsibility of saving for big-ticket items. For example, if your child wants a new video game that costs $50, teach him how to save toward that goal. Sit down and help him calculate how much he would need to save for how long in order to afford that purchase. Then help him adjust his budget to reach that goal. If your child has to pay for large purchases himself and sacrifice other expenses, he will learn the value of his money that much sooner.
4. Teach your child about the stock market. Once children understand basic math like addition, subtraction and multiplication, understanding how to invest in the stock market isn’t that far off. Explain how the stock market works in very basic terms using stocks of products your child is familiar with such as Disney (Stock Quote: DIS). Help your child track a stock for a short period and do the basic calculations to determine if an investment would make or lose money over that period.
5. Help your child start investing. Once your child has an understanding of the stock market, help her set up a real investment. The funds can come from your child’s investment savings, or you can provide some seed money or matching money. Track how the investment performs regularly with your child. If your child has a part-time job, consider starting a Roth IRA to teach the importance of saving for retirement. Investing in a Roth IRA early can teach a valuable lesson about compound interest and provide a solid start for future retirement savings.
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