You might be surprised to learn that April 23rd is “Teach Children to Save” Day. Yes, there seems to be a special day dedicated to just about everything. But, compared to celebrations like “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” teaching your kids to become savvy savers can instill lifelong positive financial habits in them and be much less embarrassing for you.
So, let’s lay the most important card on the table first: Kids need to be taught to save. Like washing their hands or brushing their teeth, good savings habits are learned through repetition, consistent practice, and encouragement from you. Start as early as possible with simple lessons that help them understand the value of money, why it’s important to save it, and the difference between buying the things you want and the things you need.
Keep in mind that the best money lessons in the world will be useless if your kids don’t understand them. Make sure the lessons you are teaching are age-appropriate. Try talking to younger children about goal setting and spending choices…in their case, maybe saving up for a small toy or treat. As they get older, introduce more detailed concepts in ways that are relevant to them. Talk to older kids about savings goals like smartphones or cars, introduce concepts like compound interest, open a savings account and engage in fun money discussions with them on topics like the good and bad financial habits of their favorite TV characters.
Resources like Money As You Grow and MyMoney.gov can help you find out what saving and money lessons are best for children at different ages. The CFPB is also hosting a Twitter Chat on April 24th on the topic of talking to your kids about money. Parents can ask questions using #MoneyTalk, and our panel of experts will answer them.
Military life is filled with teachable moments that can help kids learn to save. Incorporate your real life experiences into their money lessons. Use major military events in your career like promotion, permanent change of station (PCS), deployment and transition or retirement as chances to demonstrate to children why it’s important to save, how you do it and potential consequences of doing it wrong…or not at all.
Give your children the opportunity to actually save and manage real money. Were you ready to handle money the first time you had an opportunity? Kids can’t learn to save properly unless they are actually saving. If you can afford it, give your kids a small allowance and let them gain experience making saving and spending choices. If an allowance isn’t an option, talk with them about your family’s monthly income and expenses where appropriate. Help them understand why you prioritize things like rent, food, utilities, college funds and retirement savings over other things.
Finally, you can’t teach kids the value of saving and other smart money lessons if you’re bad at managing money yourself. Get yourself smart about personal finance, so you can pass those lessons on to your children.
Whether it’s saving, home buying, debt management or consumer protection, there are lots of resources out there that can help you learn to make smarter financial decisions. You can get in-person information and assistance at your base Financial Program office. On the Web you can visit us, Military OneSource, Military Saves, SaveAndInvest.org, or other trusted resources that can help you learn how to save, manage your money and raise the next generation of great savers.