I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I have found through conversations with parents and grandparents that this is a very searched after topic. Most everyone wants to teach their children to be good with their finances, even if they themselves don’t feel like they are good with finances. The question comes in “when is the best time to start?” The answer may surprise you.
Research has shown that you can start teaching children as young as age two about financial principles. I was sitting with my nieces and nephew this past week and something was said about a family in their local congregation selling their house. I was surprised at my nephew, age 3, who picked up on the conversation and started telling us that he hoped they didn’t run out of money and that he didn’t want me to run out of money either. This struck me, seeing how he is 3 years old and has never had to use money. While he doesn’t grasp the extent of why having money is important he knows that running out of it is a bad thing and he doesn’t want any of the people he loves to run out of it.
Our children are picking up on our conversations when it comes to money and how we handle it. Even if you are not intentionally teaching them, you are shaping how they think about money and that will affect them later on in life. If you speak of money as always a negative then your children will associate it as being a bad or scary thing. Think of the conversations you are having in front of your children. Are you worried about making ends meet? Always talking about how expensive things are? Saying you can’t afford things when they ask for something at the store? Is it the truth? Or is it not a purchase that you deem as necessary? It is alright to tell your children no because we don’t need another toy or candy or whatever they are asking for. Don’t tell them we can’t afford the toy or candy, because it can cause them to worry about your families well being or cause them to over spend when they get out on their own. They end up trying to gather all the things they were told were out of reach as a child.
Careless spending is just as bad in teaching the wrong values. Buying things you don’t need as convenient wants sends the message to kids that convenience is king. So they will end up over spending for convenience. If you buy on convenience once and a while, it is not the end of the world; but if it becomes a regular occurrence you may need to look at the example you are setting for your children.
So while your lessons on finance may not include the difference in stocks and bonds to a three year old, the basic concept of “you need money in order to buy food and clothes and have housing” is a very real lesson that they can grasp. Lessons can be short and to the point; little by little over the 18 years they are under your roof will pay off big once they are out on their own. Sometimes we over look the fact that kids are like little sponges soaking up everything that they see or hear said. Sometimes the message we put in front of our kids isn’t the one that will best benefit them later on in life. If we are always talking about money or finances in a negative way, then money will end up having a very negative starting point, as they start out on their own.
Teaching kids that money is simply a tool that we use, not the end all be all of our lives, is important too. The Bible teaches us that money and finances are useful and we should have mastery over them; but that is not the picture the world gives us. So remember our little sponges are soaking up everything around them; teaching them what to retain and what to squeeze out will keep them happy and on the right track most of their lives.