Ever heard of the phrase, "Monkey See, Monkey Do"? Well, that pretty much sums up kids. They copy everything their parents, sibling and friends do, whether the behavior be good or bad. So the question is, are you setting good examples for your kids when it comes to the way you handle your finances? If they were to copy the way you take care of you financial life when they become adults, would you be bursting with pride or sick to your stomach? If it's the latter, don't beat yourself up too much about your past financial failures. What's done is done. Use those hard earned lessons as teaching opportunities. If you are willing to share your good (and bad) experiences with your children, it just might prevent them from making the same mistakes.
Here are three ideas on how to help kids understand the importance of being financially fit:
1. Talk to them about money. Don't try to hide your financial situation from your children. Be open and honest. After all, honesty is the best policy. Of course, you'll have to put things in terms that they will be able to understand, but it's totally doable. For example, if you are swimming (okay, maybe drowning) in debt, but are trying to pay down said debt, you'll have to tighten the spending reigns for a while.
Tell your kids, "Mommy/Daddy bought some things (clothes, cars, etc.) with borrowed money and need that money back before we buy anymore new stuff. So, you can be my helper by not asking for toys every time we visit the store." And you'll have to remind them of this little conversation, every.single.time!
Tell them that at the end of the timeline, when all the debt is paid off, the family will celebrate by going out to dinner and making a special trip to the toy aisle. Set up a budget for this special occasion and keep your word. You can't do it... I've got faith in you.
2. Don't give them an allowance just because they have a pulse. Do adults get paid to do nothing? No, we actually have to show up to work and do something to receive our paycheck. Not only will this teach them that earning money comes from working, but also that having a hard work ethic is a very important trait.
Create a chore chart and put the kid(s) to work. Washing the dishes, loading the dishwasher, folding the towels (CALM DOWN MOMMA - the towel will still dry you off, even if it's not folded the right way), feeding the dogs and picking up sticks or pine cones in the yard are all easy jobs they could do to earn some dough.
Giving them responsibilities will give them a sense of ownership and they'll be proud when they've accomplished their tasks. If they are young, you'll have to work with them, but don't find yourself doing the work for them. And for a fun flare, turn on the music or make a contest out of the chores. Who can fold the neatest towels? How many towels can you fold in a minute? Who found the biggest pine cone?
3. Teach them the importance of saving, giving and spending. Growing up, my parents taught me that for every dollar I earned, I needed to save 10%, tithe 10% and the rest was mine to keep (to spend however I wanted). Break it down for them! Start with 10 dollars (does anybody even remember what a dollar bill looks like anymore?) and three jars. Label the jars: save, give, spend. Tell them that one dollar should go in the save jar, another dollar should go in the give jar and the remaining eight dollars can go in the spend jar. Let them decide how they will use their money and remind them that once it's gone, it's gone.
Parenting is hard... I get it. But simple tips like these should help lighten the load. And I'll sleep better at night knowing that I'm teaching these financial values to my son, well, that's if he lets me sleep through the night. Concerned that you've waited a little too late? Worrying won't get you anywhere. As long as they still live at home, it's not too late to start. Turn over a new leaf and make sure that your kids will be financially fit adults.