It’s back to school time and soon our children will be engaged in learning everything from the alphabet to AP Chemistry. But as we know, schooling doesn’t end after the bell rings and one subject for which there is no better classroom than the real world, is personal finance. So, put on your professor’s cap and break out your curriculum planner. Here are five ways you can help your children learn about money:
Earn vs. Allow
We all remember having an allowance when we were kids. A little money we were “allowed” to spend, usually pending some work being done or for a given period. Instead of an allowance try setting up a menu of earnings or salary associated with chores. Three dollars for laundry, five dollars for taking out trash, or ten dollars for yardwork. With this simple adjustment, we can create an early understanding that money is earned, not “allowed”.
Another great building block of solid personal finance is budgeting. Set up a budget for basic items like school lunch, gas for the car or maybe even their wireless bill. Understanding the difference between fixed vs. variable and non-discretionary vs. discretionary expenses will go a long way.
Whether it’s a shoe box, piggy bank or actual bank account, saving is great habit that kids can retain for the rest of their lives. One trick is to make sure they keep track of how much is saved (or potentially spent). Write it on the side of the shoe box, keep a log next to the piggy bank or get online access to your bank account. Visualizing the growth will keep them engaged and the momentum going.
It’s never too early for kids to learning about investing. Important topics like compound returns, market volatility, and interest/dividends can all be learned through the experience of investing. You can have them pick a few stocks in a play account online, set up a Roth IRA to invest summer job earnings or even have them participate in their own college 529 savings plans.
This lesson has two purposes, the first is loan basics and the second is to educate on the dangers of debt. You can provide funds for a purchase and have your child pay you back over time with a little extra “interest”. Helping them understand that borrowing isn’t free, and that debt can have long term impacts is a lesson better learned earlier than later.
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