Money should not be a taboo subject in front of children; in fact, introducing the topic from a young age will help your child develop a healthy attitude toward money as they grow.
When can the teaching begin?
Financial experts agree that as soon as children are old enough to say “I want”, they are old enough to learn about some basic concepts about money. Teaching young children about money should not be a sit-down lecture, but rather a series of teachable moments.
Teachable moment examples
Taking your child on a grocery shopping trip can be highly beneficial in many ways. For instance, explaining to them that you may only have R500 for the trip and if they want to buy five cereal boxes, you may not have enough money left to buy the meat. You can also explain how you are able to purchase the same or similar products at different price points. Try browsing through a shopping catalogue with your child and point out an item that you would like to buy for yourself. You can explain how you may not be able to afford the item at that stage, but you may be able to purchase it after you have saved enough money.
“Experts agree that children are ready for an allowance at about the age of seven or eight years.”
Children often watch us spending and need to become acquainted with the fact that you have other choices when it comes to money. You could introduce a piggy bank to your child to store their money each time it comes into their life via birthdays, pocket money or chores done. Remind them that they three choices when it comes to what to do with this money: spend, save or share. They can spend their money on something they would like for themselves, save it and allow it accumulate for something else, or donate some of it to charity or share it with somebody they trust. Your child must make a choice with this money and follow through with it. Of course, saving is a great life skill and it is advisable to encourage your child to put even the smallest portion of their earned money aside for saving.
Experts agree that children are ready for an allowance at about the age of seven or eight years. This money should be given to them in smaller weekly amounts rather than a monthly lump sum, as children at this age may not be able to handle larger amounts of money over longer periods of time. Also, their allowance should not be given without anything in return. This is where you can explain that you work for your money and they should too. Note that it is not advised to attach a financial reward with academic achievement. Stick to simple chores or acts that can reward them at that moment.
While your child should have a choice in how they spend this money, you may need to exercise some tough love. Perhaps your child splurged on a new toy or prefers to purchase lunch at school over a sandwich at home. Do not cave and give your child money over and above their weekly allowance; they need to learn to live with their choices.
Check your own behaviour
Children often emulate the behaviour of their parents and are highly sensitive to certain aspects of their parents’ lives. Though you should speak about money openly in front of children, be sure that you are not frequently fighting about money with your partner in front of the children. Excessive and impulsive expenditure is also a habit you should revise, particularly when you have kids. Be responsible with your money; lead by example and the kids will follow.
Teaching your children about money is important, but it doesn’t have to be a bore. Bring out the hot chocolate and the Monopoly Game Board, and have fun raising children who are financially aware.