You’ve missed the mark if you let this recession pass without talking to your children about money. A popular phrase with moms and dads is, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” I’ve even said it to the children I’ve mentored. I spoil them, so when their “want’s” go beyond what I provide, I have the “Money doesn’t grow on trees” discussion. Children just don’t understand the concept of money and it’s our responsibility as adults to teach them the difference between wants and needs. This recession is a good starting point.
While some parents may feel embarrassed by their current financial situation, there’s no sense hiding the reality. Explain to them why you’re experiencing financial loss. Explain to them the difficulty with recovering. Engage them in the process. Don’t make them worry, but make them understand the hardships you’re experiencing as a parent.
In talking with teachers and through personal experience interviewing children for a Money Smart Kids essay contest, I found many parents are not discussing money with their child. Some of the 6th to 8th grade students were extremely intelligent and understood how money works. Others didn’t understand the basic concepts of wants versus needs or the good and bad aspects of credit.
The girl who I remember most had a great concept of money and she got it from simple conversations with her parents. They didn’t have complex discussions, but they used simple life experiences to teach their daughter about money. She told a story about her lemonade stand and the money they raised working the stand all day. At the end, she and her friends wanted to order pizza. They got the pizza and quickly realized that it took all day to make enough money to eat. This is a perfect example to prove that it doesn’t take much to explain the concepts of money to your child. Look for the lesson in their daily life.
It’s never too early to start talking to your child about saving and spending. Start with a cute piggy bank, and let them experience how long it takes to earn a dollar from loose change. Let them see how long it takes to save for that ice cream from the ice cream man. Keep it simple at the beginning, but get your child into the habit of saving early.
Use the many free, online tools to help guide the conversation. The Ohio Treasurer has a good guide for parents that can walk you through the process and the Treasurer even offers FREE workshops throughout the state as part of the $mart Money Choices campaign.
Many teens may already be experiencing the impact of this economic downturn if they’re sixteen and looking for work. Many adults are now taking the jobs once held by teens.
If you have a child in high school, encourage them to enroll in a business education class or similar course (sometimes it’s home ec) where they will learn the basics of money and everyday living. See if their school offers Junior Achievement courses. This is a great curriculum where professionals come into the classroom to teach students using personal and professional examples.
Even if your child is not in the JA program, you should check out their Student Center to help them manage their money, find a career, build a business, or plan for college.
Starting with the class of 2014, schools will be required to teach students some financial literacy concepts. There is not a set curriculum, just guidance on the concepts that should be taught. Some schools are teaching more in-depth lessons while others may be skimming the surface. It’s an unfunded mandate so every school is handling it differently.
If you have a college aged child, you’ll find that you play a role in your student getting their hands on a credit card. Anyone under the age of 21 needs a co-signer to get a credit card or the individual needs to show proof of income. College kids often find ways around the laws so just make sure you talk with them about the risks of credit cards so they don’t have someone else sign the form for them and still end up in debt.
The Federal Reserve Bank compiled a database of cardholder agreements between schools and creditors that are made available for college students. Before you sign an agreement for your son or daughter to get a credit card before age 21, read the agreement and look for hidden fees.
Consumer Action has a good guide to give you guidance on WHEN you should give your child a credit card.
Resources for any age
Consumer Action’s 3 series guides to managing your money.
Money Management 1-2-3 (earning a paycheck, budgeting and saving, checking & savings account, credit explained, building positive credit, using a credit card.
Money Management 1-2-3 (updating a budget, taxes, saving for a purpose, investing, renting versus owning, mortgage, homeownership, insurance)
Money Management 1-2-3 (investing for life, retirement income, home equity loan, reverse mortgage, protecting your assets, covering medical expenses, long-term care insurance, and estate planning)
Ohio Treasurer $mart Money Choices Series — Free events and tools
Take part in a free workshop in your community during Money Smart Week (April) or America Saves Week (February) – Check with your local Federal Reserve Bank for more information