Developing financial skills at a young age is essential to making smart monetary decisions in the future. According to a survey by the Council for Economic Education, just 17 states in the U.S. require personal finance classes in high school.
“Financial education is key to economic stability and success, and kids are never too young to start learning about money, budgeting and saving,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC). “While extensive financial education resources are available, too often they aren’t included in students’ learning environments or school curriculum. This has lifelong financial consequences. If we want our kids to be smart financial adults, we need to introduce these core concepts at a young age.”
ACCC recommends educating children about finances, budgeting and the impact of money at various stages:
Preschool – Grade 2
: Parents should introduce the concept of money to children in pre-kindergarten. Preschoolers can learn to identify, count and sort different types of coins, while kindergarteners can learn how much different coins are worth. First and second graders can begin to determine how to use the fewest number of coins to achieve different amounts, and whether they have enough money to purchase items at various prices. Second graders can also learn to make change.
Start by turning everyday activities into an opportunity to explain what money is and how it is used. For example, during a trip to the grocery store, parents can compare food prices. Your next trip to the ATM is an opportunity to make sure your child understands that money must be earned and does not just come from a machine.
: As children progress through elementary school into middle school, they can begin learning about smart money choices. Distinguish between needs – items such as food, shelter and clothing – and wants – things like toys and candy. Children at this age can be introduced to the concept of budgeting, particularly if they receive an allowance, get birthday cash or gift chards or money from chores.
Introduce a budgeting worksheet that lays out sources of income and expenses so that children learn what money is being earned and spent. At this age, the concept of saving – putting money aside now to be used later – becomes important. The next time your child receives a birthday check, take them to open a savings account and explain how their money can grow due to interest.
: By the time children reach middle and high school they are old enough to understand and utilize the concepts of earning, planning and saving. Most kids at this age begin to earn money, whether through a summer job, babysitting or other work. It is important that kids keep track of their spending and know where their money is going each month. Explain that a portion of each paycheck should be put directly into a savings account.
Children should set SMART financial goals by deciding what they are saving for and how much they are going to need. SMART financial goals include being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
1. Specific: What exactly needs to be accomplished? Who else will be involved? Where will it take place? Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
2. Measurable: How will I know I’ve succeeded? How much of a change do I need to make? How many accomplishments or actions will it take?
3. Achievable: Do I have, or can I get, the resources needed to achieve the goal? Is the goal reasonable for me? Are the actions I plan to take going to bring me success?
4. Realistic: Is it worthwhile for me right now? Is it meaningful to me? Will it delay or prevent me from achieving more important goals? Am I willing to commit to really achieving this goal?
5. Timely: What is the deadline for reaching the goal? When do I need to take action? What can I do today?
Once kids get SMART about their goals, they can develop a detailed budget, utilize a bank account, and learn about what it means to spend and borrow smart without getting into too much credit card debt.
: As children begin thinking about college and life post high school, their financial needs become more pronounced. During this time, it’s critical that students learn in detail how to choose a bank and credit card.
Students thinking about college should learn about various scholarships, how to earn money while in school, and apply the financial lessons they’ve already learned by finding ways they can save money on textbooks and other college expenses.
Published with permission from RISMedia.