Buy a candy bar or save for a pack of Pokémon cards? Purchase a video game for yourself or buy a birthday gift for a friend? These are some of the financial decisions kids make every day.
So how do we help them make wise choices about their money? Anne Kersten, a Thrivent Financial associate in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, says it starts by opening an ongoing dialogue.
Kersten leads two workshops designed for families: Parents, Teens & Money Matters® and Parents, Kids & Money Matters®. Both are values-based money management workshops that provide parents with tools and talking points on how to share, save and spend money wisely. Children who attend the workshop receive either a blue piggy bank or a Cash Cache® divided into share, save and spend.
Investing early pays off
Long before Kersten began teaching other people’s kids about wise money management, she taught her own. When her daughters were only 4 and 5 years old, they each received a small allowance to learn how to designate money for sharing, saving and spending.
“Saving is important because it helps mentally prepare for long-term goals,” Kersten says, adding that her daughters knew they would be responsible for a portion of their college tuition. So, from a young age, their savings were earmarked for college.
After spending a semester studying abroad, Kersten’s older daughter graduated from college this year. She used grants and scholarships – along with her savings – to help pay her way. Kersten’s younger daughter saved enough to cover her portion of tuition and will graduate debt-free in 2018.
Kersten says one big barrier kids face in developing healthy money habits involves how their parents talk about finances. “Parents often get wrapped up in talking about money negatively, and our kids pick up on that,” she notes.
Here's Kersten's advice for parents:
- Keep it age appropriate. While each child varies in his or her maturity, select financial concepts and activities that are appropriate for each developmental stage.
- Don’t underestimate your kids. They can grasp the concepts of share, save and spend at a young age. When they become teenagers, teach them how to manage personal finances.
- Try not to make assumptions. “Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for – even at a young age,” Kersten says. “They just might not know how to articulate it.”
- Reflect on how you developed your own money habits – good and bad – when you were a child.
- Don’t shy away from talking about money around your kids. Many of our parents and grandparents did not discuss money with their children, Kersten says. “The generational attitudes around money were, ‘It’s not their business.’”
- Ask, don’t tell. “We don’t listen well enough,” she says. “Encourage ongoing dialogue and create a safe space to ask questions and share concerns. They need to know they will be listened to.”
- Don’t immediately say no. Talk through financial choices, including needs versus wants, with your kids to engage them in the decision-making process from an early age.
Attend a workshop
Thrivent offers free, values-based educational workshops on a variety of topics. Interested in leading or attending a workshop in your community? Learn more here.