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Toddlers to teens: How to kick-start your child’s saving habits

coins, a dollar bill and a checkbook

Getting your children to save money may be more difficult than getting them to brush their teeth or eat their vegetables. But it’s one of many good money habits you can help your kids build. Read on to learn how you can develop a savings mindset from early childhood to young adulthood.

Early childhood

“Are we there yet?”

With young children, learning to wait is essential to good savings habits. Focus on developing behaviors that require patience such as playing quietly when you’re on the phone or talking with others, waiting for their turn in a game, or standing in line at a restaurant. Learning these skills makes it easier for them to wait for things they need or want as they get older. Reward your children with praise for patience and self-control; these practices help them to see how exercising patience now pays off later with better results. Read more about how learning self-control helps a child’s financial future too.

Middle childhood

“OH! I want what those kids have!”

Kids age six to 12 begin to notice what’s around them—like what their peers and friends have. Talk to them about how people usually save up for things they want. Help them plan and save money they might receive as gifts or allowances. To encourage their savings, you might introduce them to the idea of “matching” – even though they might not encounter a matched savings program for many years. You can add to the money they deposit in their bank accounts or put in their piggy banks—such as five, ten, or 25 cents for every dollar they save—and set a limit on the total amount you match per week or month.

Today’s children are digital natives, meaning they have been born into a world full of technology and it feels natural to them. You can demonstrate how technology supports the world of money, too. For children who are too young to have an account in their own name, consider opening a separate, low-fee savings or checking account where you keep your child’s money. Then, show them online how the account can grow. You can also help your child make digital deposits, or pay their allowance by transferring money from your account to the one you hold for them.

Teen years and young adulthood

“Can I borrow ten dollars?”

As your children attend high school, move on to young adulthood, and begin to earn their own money, help them set savings goals and track their savings.

Your teenagers are entering a time where they’ll be called on to make complex choices and tradeoffs. Help them get in the habit of gathering and comparing facts before making a decision. You can talk through with them the advantages and disadvantages of having a savings account, checking account, checkbook, debit card, and other ways to track and save their money. Help them comparison-shop for an account with features that are important to them: low risk, low fees, online access, and more.

Building a money habit like saving for the future happens over time. As your children grow and develop, you can add to the foundation of money skills they carry with them into adulthood.

Try out activities with your children

On our newly redesigned web resource, Money as You Grow, you will find activities designed for each age group to help prepare your children for their financial lives. We’ve also combined the activities with our research on how adults develop financial well-being to show you why the activities work. Let us know what you think!

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