Coming out of the holiday season, when marketers foment every kid’s wish list into a begging frenzy, it’s a good time to give your children a lifelong gift that always holds its value: Teach them to be financially savvy.
As I am the father of two elementary-school-age boys, raising financially smart kids is a subject that’s near and dear. Like many parents, at times my wife and I feel like we are waging war against the constant barrage of stuff, like the latest Xbox, iPhone or athletic shoes that our boys tell us they just need to have.
You don’t need to divulge all of your finances to your children, but it’s important to foster responsible financial habits from an early age. Here’s how.
■Be a good financial role model. Children learn from their parents, and how they learn to handle money is no exception. According to the Charles Schwab 2011 Teens and Money Survey, 82 percent of the teens polled said that they learned to manage money from their parents.
■Take your younger kids grocery shopping and show them what things cost. Ask them to compare prices of similar items and find the lowest one. For older children, show them you save. Let them know that you’re cutting back on eating out because you’re saving for a new car or family vacation.
■Build their financial muscles. You might hear a lot of debate about how and whether parents should give allowances. Whatever camp you are in, if your kids can handle an allowance correctly, it provides them with everyday opportunities to practice money management skills. They learn firsthand what things cost, how to make and live with their spending decisions, how to save for bigger purchases and how to share some of their good fortune with others. This ongoing practice stays with them when they get their first paycheck.
■Motivate learning with engaging apps. Learning about money can be fun when it’s designed to be engaging and wrapped in great graphics. Two of my favorite apps are Kids Money and Savings Spree.
Savings Spree, winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, is a game that provides children with virtual experiences to earn money. The app encourages them to make good spending choices and to think about investing their money or making charitable donations. Kids Money teaches children about saving for a larger purchase. They enter their goal amount and the sum of money they save each week, and the app shows how long it takes to reach the desired goal at their savings rate. They can also add any gift money they receive to the goal.
■Invest in the stock of their favorite company. What better way for your kids to learn about investing than owning a part of their favorite company? I love Oneshare.com, a website where you can buy one share of stock as a gift. You can buy a share of Walt Disney (DIS) or Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) for your children and get a stock certificate. Having something tangible makes owning a stock easier to understand. While cheering on a stock that’s going up can be fun, I think an equally valuable lesson comes if it loses money.
■Go on a corporate-annual-meeting field trip. If the headquarters of the companies you hold stock in are close to where you live, take the opportunity to experience a shareholder meeting with your kids. If you can’t make it to a meeting, request an annual report. Many are beautifully prepared with engaging graphics and photographs. Read the report over with your kids, then talk about how the company is doing, what challenges it faces, and what terms like “revenue” and “cost of goods” mean. Ask them if they think the company is a good investment and why.
I hope you’re inspired to teach your children the priceless lessons about money and finances. The works pay off later and the benefits can last throughout their lives.
Barry Glassman is the founder and president of Glassman Wealth Services, a fee-only financial planning firm in McLean, Virginia.