Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Finances at Every Age
Have you ever used the phrase “Why didn’t they teach this in high school?” Oftentimes, this is asked when referring to doing your taxes or managing money. As an adult, I know I don’t use algebra regularly, but setting a budget and managing our finances are things I actually use daily and a skill that are important to teach your children.
Recently, Heidi Higgins from the On Learning Podcast sat down with Joseph Oakley, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and host of the Enjoy More 30s podcast. Mr. Oakley covered several great topics about kids and finance, but one important concept was that of “mindset.” Oakley said “Money is a tool. It’s not a goal. So, when people say, ‘I want to make a lot of money,’ then the next question is, ‘okay, well, if you made a lot of money, what would you now be able to do that you couldn’t do before?’” By helping develop a strong mindset around money from an early age and outlining what money can help you achieve, you can start to develop a healthy foundation for your children around the topic of money. We break down ways to talk about finances by age and resources to help practice what they have learned.
Elementary School Age
Starting to discuss finances and money at a young age is important for setting your kid’s foundation. The important thing is to be open to questions and be as honest as possible. Kids may ask how much you make or why your house is bigger than someone else’s. Kerry Flately from Self-Sufficient kids suggests “It’s not necessary to give exact income figures in your answers. Instead, use the question as an opportunity to share values. For example, you could talk about how different people make money or why some people choose careers that aren’t high in income but bring them fulfillment.” Introducing the topic of value is a great first step for kids to start understanding finances.
Another great way to introduce the topic of finances to younger kids is through the lens of wants vs. needs. Certified Financial Planner Liz Frazier explains the “needs versus wants” topic is “the basis of our budget. It’s exactly what ‘smart spending’ is: taking care of our needs first. Our wants come after our needs are satisfied.” Wants vs. needs is a great strategy to teach young kids, because it’s an easy concept for them to grasp and its something you can bring with you into adulthood.
Middle School Age
As your kids mature, they can take on a deeper understanding of finances. This is a great time to start working on concepts like budgeting, how different jobs have different pay, and savings accounts. If there is something your kids want and you do not want to pay for it, then you could use that as the perfect example to help guide them through a real-life financial exercise. You can list out how much it costs and how much money they have, and then work a plan out for them to achieve this goal. There are tons of great resources out there including iMOM budgeting sheet. This is a resource that introduces the idea of Share, Save, and Spend.
High School Age
Once your kids have reached high school age, it’s important to take all these concepts that you have been talking about and make sure they are really prepared and understand how it all works. This would be the right time to take the value of money conversation to the next level. As Amanda from the Money Prodigy explains: “If you were to tell your child or teenager that you make $65,000/year, you wouldn’t leave out the context to that, such as the bills and living expenses that you’re responsible for.” It is important for children to understand all that your salary goes into covering. This also helps touch on topics like banking, 401K, insurance, and taxes. This helps them to understand that when you are offered a job for a certain salary, the money that comes home will be less due to those expenses and deductions.
Finances can be an overwhelming topic, but starting early and introducing concepts in an age-appropriate way can really help take complicated conversations and make them more digestible for kids. Just start small and build on each concept.
Additionally, if your kids seem really interested in finance, there are classes they can take. Stride Career Prep offers pathways for Business Finances where you learn about topics like financial best practices for successful businesses and accounting skills and see how they relate to running a business.
Leslie is a writer, editor, and social media associate for Learning liftoff. For 10 years she primarily focused on marketing and communications with a particular focus on social media. Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Joseph University in Political Science and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing and Communications from West Virginia University. When she is not working Leslie enjoys spending time with her Husband and their three children.