As a young adult I was overwhelmed by debt. I maxed out my credit cards paying for college expenses and I had student loans that totaled twice my yearly income. Fresh out of school, I was trying to “live the life” and continued to spend more than I earned. Eventually, I became desperate and was motivated to change.
Slowly I got a handle on my situation by hearing biblical teaching on money at church and getting practical advice from the book Financial Freedom in 8 Minutes a Day. (I have read many books since then but this is the one that got me started.) I stopped spending money I didn’t have, kept a close eye on what I owed, worked more than one job, and obeyed God in giving both tithes and offerings.
It’s been 12 years since I have been free of consumer debt. Having struggled with managing money myself, I knew it was important to equip my kids with the necessary tools to manage their money. I want my kids to know their math facts and spelling words, but I also want them to be financially intelligent.
According to Dave Ramsey’s website:
· In 2007, 60% of teens knew how to balance a checkbook. In 2011, only 43%.
· 40% of 13-22 year olds expect to receive an inheritance. Only 16% of parents said they think they can provide one.
· 75% of teens say that learning more about money management, including budgeting, savings and investing, is one of their top priorities.
It may seem overwhelming, trying to teach your kids about handling finances, especially if you haven’t been so good at it yourself. However, it’s never too early or too late to set you and your family on the path to responsible money management.
Here are four easy steps to get you started in teaching your kids about money.
1. Create a Family Financial Mission Statement
It was important for me to first establish what I really believed about money, both biblically and practically, before I could begin to teach my children. Training them to manage money isn’t just about showing them how to balance a checkbook. It’s about transferring my values and attitude about money to my kids, not just by what I say but also by what I do. To me this journey wasn’t about math, it was about stewardship.
2. Discuss Wants vs. Needs
It seemed that every place we’d go, the kids would find something they wanted us to buy. Dolls, stickers, stuffed animals, bouncy balls, or candy. They felt they “needed” it, but what they didn’t understand was they just “wanted” it. Giving them what they wanted made them happy. In many cases, it made me happy too because it was the easiest way to get them to stop whining or crying. It got sticky when more than one child wanting something; then I felt the need to spend equal amounts on each of them, which added up quickly. Soon it became evident that I needed to teach my little ones the difference between wants and needs. I also realized they needed some skin in the game. What would happen if it was their money they were spending?
3. Give Your Kids Money To Spend
The essentials of money management are: Give – Save – Spend. I tithe 10%, save 10%, and spend 80%. To teach my kids this principle, I made a construction paper “pie” with 10 different pieces using three different colors to represent Give – Save - Spend. Every week, when my kids were young, I gave them each a dollar, and then I walked them through dividing it up equally. I could easily do this with dimes. As I gave the kids their money, they would place each coin on a piece of the pie. Once the money was divided into ten equal parts we would put the dime(s) and the pie piece(s) into plastic containers that were named appropriately. The tithe would end up in the offering plate at church. The savings would stay in the container and accumulate, and the rest of the money was theirs to spend. HERE is a free download of a pie chart you can use with your kids.
4. Practice Spending Money Together
It didn’t take long before I saw a difference in my kids and their view of money. From that point on, I would be responsible for the things they needed and they would be responsible for the things they wanted. It empowered them and they began to spend wisely. Having a limit on what they could buy changed their shopping experience. Instead of asking me for everything that piqued their interest, they slowly walked up and down the aisles. They looked at all the toys, books, markers, and stickers carefully as they decided on exactly what they wanted.
My children have other lessons to learn when it comes to handling money, but these were the most important in getting them started. My kids have many years before they are off on their own. It makes me a little sad to think of it, but at least I can smile knowing that they will make far better choices than I did when I left the nest.
For more ideas on how to teach your children about money, check out Kimberly’s series on Kids & Money on her blog.
Kimberly Amici is an enthusiastic and dedicated founding member of the Circles of Faith team. She is known for her creativity, strong faith, and commitment to living life with purpose and passion. Kimberly is a writer and community builder whose desire is for hearts to be healed, minds to be renewed and women to be connected in fellowship just as God intended.