Money makes the world move. No matter how you look at it, finances are central to every aspect of life. Thus, teaching our children financial literacy is vital to ensure they have the best opportunities in life.
Even if your own finances aren’t stellar, you can begin to teach your kids the importance of smart financial decisions.
And, as we’ll see with the following online resources, you don’t have to do it all on your own!
How to Budget
Teaching kids, and teens especially, the importance of budgeting is crucial. Without a job, bills, or other expenses, kids often can’t grasp the value of a strong budget.
Parents can involve their kids in the household budget. This way, they can show them how to account for every dollar, highlight the different categories of expenses (including utilities and bills), and emphasize the importance of setting money aside. Doing so will help them become financially smart and responsible when they head out on their own.
If they already have a job and expenses, help them create a personalized budget.
Be sure to include:
- Transportation costs if they have a car (gas, maintenance, cleaning)
- Food costs (have them pay for special items not included in the family shopping)
- Savings goals (from a new video game to a summer trip)
- Recurring expenses (have them pay for a Netflix profile of their own if they’re mature enough)
Also, turn to online resources to help plan your budgets. Mint offers a great online calculator to help create a realistic budget. Set common expenses, such as food, rent, and utilities.
You can even include savings goals and cash spending. This is a great resource for your kids and teens to see how involved a budget is, and how important one is in ensuring steady finances.
For many young people, money is just a means to “get stuff.” Spending is achieving goals, especially when the goal is a new video game or clothes. Parents, on the other hand, must teach their kids the importance of smart spending, even if it seems an impossible task.
The FDIC has created lesson plans on teaching finances to young people.
The spending section includes important words and phrases related to spending and finances. Some keywords and lessons include:
- Cash Flow Statement (good for personal and business lessons)
- FAFSA (and the steps involved with securing financial aid for college)
- Fixed Expenses (what will they be spending money on every month?)
Plus, there are conversation starters, including:
- Why is it important to keep track of your money?
- How much do you think college will cost?
- Have you ever thought about donating to charities?
Of course, spending might not be an issue until your children have jobs. Still, these conversations should be had as early as possible.
The real world is moving away from cash and checks, but most banks won’t issue debit cards to children until they’re 16. Fear not, though; there’s an app for that.
Greenlight gives the parents the ability to create budgets and set allowances.
It even gives your children a debit card to use. Create chore lists and pay your kids when they are completed. Track spending with real-time notifications. Go over weekly and monthly spending habits to teach responsible usage.
Plus, you can always add funds to their card, should they need it. With apps like Greenlight, you can become the bank for your kids, with the same resources as a bank branch.
Using Credit Responsibly
Another common financial pitfall for young people (and people in general) is credit. Avoiding debt is essential for healthy finances, especially when a young person is starting on their own.
An early sense of credit responsibility will help your children maneuver the slippery slope of credit.
Parents should teach the ins and outs of credit before kids get their first card. Focus not only on how to use credit but the consequences of mishandling credit. Explain late fees and how missing payments impact the credit score. Go in-depth about how poor credit limits loans and rent availability. Also, highlight how credit debt will hinder their ability to save for goals.
One smart way to instill these lessons is to provide your children with your own form of credit.
Extend a loan with appropriate fees and a repayment schedule. And be sure to reinforce the penalties of misuse and neglect. Without being too harsh, you might repossess a favorite video game, or dock their allowance to make up for “finance charges.”
If you go this route, though, be sure the goals and consequences are clear. This is a teaching moment; it shouldn’t build any resentment towards credit and finances.
If they get into trouble, help them understand how they went wrong. Banks might be ruthless in debt collection, but you can soften the blow a little while still teaching the lessons.
Self Financial provides several online resources for financial education.
These are geared to adults, but they are perfect to showcase what important lessons should be passed on to your children. For example, take building credit.
Self Financial suggests using a secured card to build (or rebuild) credit. Secured cards are great options for new credit users for several reasons. The most impactful are:
- Credit limits are set by a security deposit (and can be as low as $200)
- Lower credit limits help keep purchases and payments to manageable amounts
- They usually report to credit bureaus to build credit
- Secured cards often lack frills and extra programs (to keep the attention on credit, not rewards)
Secured credit cards are great tools to help get your children prepared for adulthood. All cards require the primary holder to be 18. However, parents can add children as authorized users and monitor the usage. Not only will this help create smart credit skills, but it will also establish credit in your children’s name that will be ready for them to take advantage of later in life.
Financial literacy is often a neglected lesson for kids.
This is why starting early is essential, especially in a world that is increasingly less forgiving toward financial mistakes. Use online resources to teach your children about the important aspects of finances.
Budgeting tools like Mint can help your children understand how they have to use their money. And spending apps like Greenlight allow parents to bring the lessons of smart banking and spending right to their phones. Finally, start credit lessons early. Self Financial provides key education on a variety of financial topics, including credit.
Your kids deserve a headstart on their finances. Fortunately, the Internet takes away much of the stress involved in doing so.
**Author Bio: My name is Ann Lloyd and I’m a newly enrolled MBA grad student. I’m getting my degree online and working as a marketing intern on the side. In my spare time, I’m hard at work on the Student Savings Guide, my blog about living a budget-conscious life. The guide caters to students and recent grads, but anyone can use these tips to get by.