Student loan debt is increasing by the second, yet little is being done to educate these students about money before they enter college. In fact, only 17 states mandate that students take a course in personal finance, according to the Council for Economic Education. Unless you reside in one of these states or your children are learning about money at home, the school of hard knocks will do the teaching. Pick up the slack and impart your wisdom with these simple tips:
1. Invite Your Children to Attend 'Money Meetings'
If your children seem to think there’s an infinite supply of money in your bank account, hold regular "money meetings" so they understand that Mom and Dad actually work to generate income. Have general, age-appropriate conversations about financial goals and what’s being done to reach them.
2. Distribute a Weekly Salary
It’s pointless to distribute a weekly allowance to your children if they aren’t exerting any effort. Instead, establish a salary plan determined by the tasks they perform. Create three envelopes or jars, one for saving, giving and spending. Explain how the funds will be divided and have them set goals each week. Empower them to make their own spending decisions. Also, offer a bonus, which you will match if they meet your expectations, to mimic retirement plans, and evaluate their progress each week.
3. Use Cash
Paying with credit teaches your children it’s fine to buy things they can’t afford. And you know what happens in the real world as that amount increases—interest takes over. Similarly, if your children don't have enough money saved to purchase some toy or other item they want, resist the urge to cover the difference or borrow from their savings jar. Have them do extra chores to earn the money; it teaches them to work for what they want.
4. Bring out the Calculator on Shopping Trips
While at the grocery store, have a set amount of cash on hand and request they tally up the items as you place them into the shopping cart. The lesson here is to be disciplined and stay within your means.
5. Find Creative Ways to Entertain at Home
When you’re bored with your children at home, do you immediately head out to an entertainment venue for a fun-filled (and expensive) day? Doing so conveys the idea that it’s OK to go all out instead of using the resources you have. Having fun doesn't have to cost anything. Go to the park. Play hide-and-seek. Find out when free admission day is at the local museum. Go to the library. Make homemade playdough. Learn some basic magic tricks off YouTube. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest. Play pool games in your swimming pool.
6. Avoid Impulse Purchases
Have you ever headed to the store to pick up an item in an effort to soothe a jealousy fit your child was having? How about those times when you’ve given in to the whining at the checkout? You’re communicating it’s acceptable to make impulse purchases and that buying something is an acceptable way to deal with disappointment. If you don’t demonstrate patience, neither will they.
Instilling these principles at an early age will benefit your children for many years to come.