Perhaps we weren’t blessed with parents who perfectly taught or modeled financial wisdom and acumen. However, the issue facing us today is that we as parents are responsible to teach our own children about handling money wisely. The good news is that what we don’t know, we can learn.
Money handling includes both how to earn money and how to wisely plan for its use. Here are some things we parents can do now to help our children handle money better in the future.
Become a Role Model
Regardless of what has happened in our lives thus far, we can become an example of provident living and a practitioner of sound financial principals. It may take some study and effort on our part – reading, taking a class or two, and changing some habits – but we can do it. If we consistently buy designer brand clothing time after time, we can’t expect our children to be content with thrift store bargains. Our daily example in handling money will be a force in molding their attitudes as they see us, hear us, and do as we do.
Share Your Plans
Let your children see you discussing goals, budgets, and progress. As they see you weigh decisions like whether to buy a used car, new car, or fix up “Tillie” for another year or so, they will come to appreciate how you set spending priorities in a calm, businesslike manner.
Children can participate in decisions about spending for vacations, holiday gifts, and significant budget items, and in saving for missions and education. Don’t burden them with problems, but show them how you can handle financial challenges, set priorities, and keep focused on goals that affect every family member. Children enjoy offering ideas and suggestions that help the family achieve a common goal and will be more inclined to make the sacrifices to bring it about.
Identify Wants and Needs
Just because everyone else has something doesn’t mean it is a need, but these kinds of wants don’t have to be ignored either. There is nothing wrong with spending for selected wants as money permits. Parents can also say, “We can’t afford that right now. If it’s really important to you, let’s add it to your list.” Children may then make special efforts to earn and save for the item. Sometimes, however, something that once was urgent may not be a few weeks later.
Parents can also be an example in how they practice the principle and blessing of deferred gratification. Parents may save money now for a home, a mission, and a college education, instead of buying something less important now. Such sacrifice and discipline may also serve to reinforce the principle of obedience in this life to gain celestial glory in the next.
Stick to Your Budget
Children should see (and help) you make shopping lists, use the coupons, weigh the choices of brands and quality, prioritize expenditures, and keep within your targeted spending. Give children the challenge to plan, shop for, and prepare a family meal by giving them a budget, sending (or taking) them to the grocery store to do comparison shopping for the ingredients.
Don’t Forget Tithing
I’ve admired parents who provide opportunities for their children to work – offering a parcel of land to grow corn, opening the door for an after school job, and other opportunities. Work brings tangible rewards, including money to spend. Work opportunities help children learn traits and skills that will bless their lives.
With work’s rewards comes the opportunity to teach about tithing. Take children with you to tithing settlement. Help them learn that everything belongs to the Lord, and from what he gives us, we choose to return 10 percent to him first.
Along with tithing, our children must learn to pay themselves (or save). We created financial incentives to encourage our children to save and even created a family “bank” where accounts earned interest. Each month I followed up with the children to praise them for their thrift and point out how their savings were growing.
My wife and I began teaching our children early. We were amazed at how the children imitated our practice of clipping and using coupons. They set up an imaginary town where they bought and sold things. They worked, did their chores, and as they were paid, we reminded them to pay their tithing first. We also encouraged them to save some of their money. We guided them in their spending, and at times let them spend their money for things we didn’t necessarily agree with.
Because of the comfort level we’ve developed in discussing financial matters in our family, our adult children now come to us for advice on adult financial matters, such as whether to choose a certificate of deposit or mutual fund investment.
Our attitudes about money and those we develop within our children can shape their lives for better or worse. As your children learn from you – and perhaps see their friends and colleagues struggling – they will be grateful that you took the time and had the discipline to teach them how to handle money.