Given how important financial skills are to navigating life, it’s surprising that our schools don’t teach children about money. As a parent, however, you can teach your child important financial lessons — and you should. To help the next generation avoid the mistakes of their elders, and to live financially fit lives, they need to be taught the essentials about money,” says Beth Kobliner, author of the New York Times bestseller Get a Financial Life.
Kobliner says children as young as three years old can grasp financial concepts like saving and spending. And a report by researchers at the University of Cambridge commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Money Advice Service revealed that kids’ money habits are formed by age 7.
“The sooner parents start taking advantage of everyday teachable money moments, the better off our kids will be. Parents are the number one influence on their children’s financial behaviors, so it’s up to us to raise a generation of mindful consumers, investors, savers, and givers,” she says.
Below are the top money lessons to be learned at for age 3 – 5, as well as activities to illustrate each point.
The Lesson: You may have to wait to buy something you want.
“This is a hard concept for people to learn of all ages,” says Kobliner. However, the ability to delay gratification can also predict how successful one will be as a grown-up. Kids at this age need to learn that if they really want something, they should wait and save to buy it.
Money lessons at this age set the tone for later on. “You really can’t start too early,” says Kobliner. Speaking of her own family, she says, “When we go into a store, if I say, ‘We don’t have money for this,’ they’re smart — they know we have credit cards,” So, she would say, “We’re here to buy a gift for X, and we’re not going to buy anything for you, because we’re not here for that.” Kids then quickly learn that going into a store doesn’t always mean you’ll buy something.
Activities For Ages 3 To 5
- When your child is waiting in line, say, to go on the swings, discuss how important it is to learn to wait for what he or she wants.
- Create three jars – each labeled “Saving,” “Spending” or “Sharing.” Every time your child receives money, whether for doing chores or from a birthday, divide the money equally among the jars. Have him or her use the spending jar for small purchases, like candy or stickers. Money in the sharing jar can go to someone you know who needs it or to the Church. The saving jar should be for more expensive items.
- Have your child set a goal, such as to buy a toy. Make sure it’s not so pricey that they won’t be able to afford it for months. “Then it just gets frustrating, and it gets hard for them to wrap their head around. You want to set them up for success. If your child does have an expensive goal, come up with a matching program to help her reach it in a reasonable timeframe. (Kobliner says that while an allowance is a personal choice for every family, at this age, a small allowance could help a child save for these goals.)
Every time your child adds money to the savings jar, help them count up how much they have, talk with them about how much they needs to reach their goal, and when they will reach it. “All those behaviors are really fun for kids,” says Kobliner. “And it gives them a sense of the importance of waiting and being patient and saving.”