National Financial Literacy Month is recognized in the United States in April in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. I have talked about how we as lawyers can and should promote financial literacy with our clients. If you’re a parent, you also have the very important responsibility of teaching your kids about money.
I recently volunteered through Junior Achievement and taught a five-week personal finance class to high school seniors. Though smart kids, I received some blank stares when using terms such as compound interest and variable annuities. Yes, they were all familiar with bank accounts, basic interest terms, and credit cards. But I doubt many had been exposed to basic investment strategy. I, for one, hope my kids will have their money working for them as soon as possible once they have jobs. To help them achieve this, I am teaching them now, while they are barely pre-teens, about assets vs. liabilities, and giving them a chance to invest in stocks now.
A recent study said that, while half of moms and dads give their children an allowance, only 4% require them to deposit that money into a bank account. Just 27% take their kids into a bank to make monthly transactions. As parents, I think we all know that it’s our responsibility, and that we certainly cannot count on them learning it in school. Yet, most of us are not doing a very good job. Regardless of income, the lessons – and the importance of them – remain the same.
Here are some tips to use with your children:
Tell them that money is important. Explain to your child that achieving their goals and aspirations is tied to a healthy understanding of money basics.
Make saving second nature. Have your child set aside a portion of any money they receive, whether it is from an allowance or birthday gift.
Get them to the bank. Open a savings account with your kids. Then encourage them to manage it with regular deposits to build a sense of responsibility.
Involve your child in budgeting. The grocery store is a great place to introduce them to budgeting and making choices about what they want vs. what they need.
Teach the basics of investing. Start with lessons on the stock market and interest rates. Using a compounding calculator, like the one at TheMint.org, is a fun way for kids to learn how their money can grow over the years if a small sum is placed into a savings account, CD, money market account, bonds or stocks.
Encourage them to be entrepreneurs. Encourage them to earn their own money. Getting paid to do extra chores around the house, or starting their own "business" like walking dogs, mowing lawns or washing cars around the neighborhood, builds a strong foundation – and work ethic – for the future.
Be a role model. Ensure that you are also making the best choices for your family, sticking to a budget, and not overspending.
Jay FIsher is co-founder of Vantage Capital Consultants, a purchaser of structured settlements.