The Best Money Lesson to Teach Your Kids at Every Age
It’s really never too early to start talking to your kids about money. But how do you explain to a three-year-old that Paw Patrol figurines don’t just fall from the sky? We checked in with Beth Kobliner, author of the new book Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), for some great tips on how to make them financially savvy at every single age.
Toddlers: Teach them to wait
Self-control is the name of the game. Anyone who has a toddler knows that their instinct is to get what they want as soon as they want it. But teaching a kid to wait doesn’t just make them a considerate playground playmate; it plants a seed that delayed gratification has its perks. Say you’re on a routine trip to Target and your son demands the jumbo Lego set. Instead of trying to rationalize that a two-inch Batman is simply not worth $50, explain that a toy like this is special and it’s better to wait for a celebration—like a birthday—before bringing it home.
Elementary School: Explain “opportunity cost”
Yep, your budding second grader is totally able to understand that you often have to give up one thing to get another. For instance, if you give little Judy $2 for after-school snacks, but she wants to buy new Num Noms, explain to her that she can bring a granola bar from home every day until she’s saved enough to get the toy.
Middle School: Banish the brand-name Zombie
To be fair, it’s not easy to ignore brands when you’re a tween. (Remember your whole Abercrombie & Fitch obsession?) So instead of trying to convince your middle schooler that no one will notice the generic version of whatever it is they’re lusting after, reinforce the difference between wants and needs. A Brandy Melville top is a want. Something to cover her midriff is a need.
Teens: Introduce saving up for “extras”
Even if you can easily afford a coveted teen “must,” it’s not only OK to say no, it might actually be good for him. Maybe your 15-year-old wants headphones with a price tag that spurs serious eye rolling on your part. Encourage him to save for the headphones, and he’ll either value them more or realize that babysitting for 15 hours just to buy them really isn’t worth it.
College Kids: Have them work summers
Lest your child forgets, college is the time when you’re supposed to be broke. If your kids are fortunate enough that you can assist with tuition, housing, books and groceries, let them know that it doesn’t mean they can slack off during the summer months and lead a Ferris Bueller-like existence. Money saved then will give them breathing room during the school year, so they can actually study without sacrificing on socializing and trips (ahem, spring break).
Young Adults: Emphasize starting small
That first real paycheck is going to be awesome! And that first real apartment needs to get decorated, right? Before she goes to town with her credit card, remind her that it’s important to make do with what she has until she’s secured her financial situation. (This means taking care of student loans and evaluating her budget after all the utilities and bills have been paid.) Plus, isn’t there something charming about upcycling milk crates into furniture?