Give. Save. Spend. Three jars sit on my six-year old’s bookshelf, one for each of those words. Give goes to the church, at least $1 a week, and to other causes my son finds worthy. Save is money set aside for another day. Spend is his money to do with what he wants. He splits his money evenly across all three regardless of the income source.
My wife, Jayme, and I do not believe in allowances. Instead my son earns commissions. If he chooses to work he gets paid. If he would rather play toys or watch TV he does not. Feeding the dog, folding laundry, taking out the compost or getting the mail - he earns his money a few quarters at a time. Jayme and I work hard, and we want to pass on that Midwest work ethic to our kids. We talk with them about money and how it is only earned through hard work. We openly discuss our monthly budget and how that impacts what we can and cannot do. Grocery store conversations include how much apples cost and what is the better buy. We routinely show them the checks we write to our church and how much money we have set aside in their 529 savings accounts. We talk about saving for the fun things like vacations and the not so fun things like new gutters. We coach them on entrepreneur opportunities, like a lemonade stand on a hot summer day, and how a small investment in supplies, cups and lemonade-mix, can result in large returns.
Families should talk about money — together. While this may seem odd, especially for young kids, it is incredibly helpful to establish financial awareness. Parents who talk about money with their kids raise kids who are better with money. Kids feel more confident about money and want to save for their future, including college. I can remember my dad teaching me that money is not given; It is earned. After opening my first checking account, my mom showed me how to balance a checkbook and budget. Those conversations from years ago instilled values that are with me today, and that I try to pass on to my own children. My oldest often asks about his savings account balance since he is saving for “a house, close to yours,” so I am betting our conversations are working.
For families with younger children, try starting the conversations in different places. Find the opportunities to talk about why you chose to buy something (or chose not to). Set family savings goals and post on the refrigerator as a little reminder; update progress routinely. Have your children do the same, and let them tell you their motivation. Help them open a kids savings account to assist in their short and long-term goals. Talk to your kids about giving, saving and spending and how all are equally important at any age.
As for the turtle shell, it comes out of the toy box from time to time alongside the memories of my son’s first experience spending his own money. And I trust that he will keep giving, saving and spending with confidence as he grows older.
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