Graduation. For some of you, that may mean your oldest has proudly finished pre-K and is ready to join the big kids at elementary school; for others, perhaps it’s your youngest who’s putting on a formal cap and gown with sights set on college.
Whatever the age, the transition from one school year to the next is a great time to teach your kids about money. Not in a heavy-handed kind of way (after all, it is summer, and my guess is if you show up at the pool with a “Finance for Kids” workbook, you will likely meet some resistance!), but as a something that happens naturally based on their age and interests.
Here are a few quick tips around teachable money moments this summer:
For Elementary Age Kids and Younger:
Kids this age are natural entrepreneurs. They love to create lemonade stands, make bracelets, or collect sandglass to sell at the beach.
They have tons of ideas and energy so the best money lessons at this age might be to simply support their enthusiasm, creativity and passions. If they hit a stumbling block over their project, resist the urge to be the helicopter parent who takes over. Instead, pause before jumping in and eventually they’ll figure out the best way to make sure the ice in the pitcher doesn’t melt or how much to lower prices if their knick-knacks just aren’t selling.
Great entrepreneurs later in life are the ones who follow their passions, are resilient and problem-solve, and it’s never too early to start nurturing these qualities in your child.
For Middle Schoolers:
Kids this age start to have a much better sense of money—and begin to want more of it. As opposed to when they are younger, when just the idea of a lemon stand seemed fun, kids at this age are more driven by the actual end result – the money earned. They are more motivated to work and may have interest in finding “steadier” income.
Take advantage of this natural development to instill lessons around consistency and developing discipline around one or two tasks on a regular basis. If you haven’t already done so, create a system of regular chores that they are responsible for from which they can earn an allowance, or brainstorm ways they can get a summer job in the neighborhood babysitting or doing yard-work. Whereas passion and enthusiasm were the first layer, middle school is a great time to encourage consistency and discipline.
By the time they are in high school, young adults often feel an urgency to give back and participate in community service, independent of their parents. Your child may suddenly have “cause” that he/she becomes passionate about and wants to make a real difference in.
As parents, you can help them find ways to make their ideals more practical. Help them come up with a specific savings goal of how much money they’d like to donate, or how they can schedule their time more productively so they can volunteer a certain number of hours per week toward their favorite charity.
Giving back is a great money lesson to start instilling in this age group in a way that is concrete and practical, and not simply idealistic. (As a side note, a fantastic book to give to your high schooler to inspire your young adult about volunteerism is The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun).
Finally, for those fashioning a cap and gown as we speak, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. Hopefully, you have been talking about money and personal finances with your child throughout these years. Even if you have, my advice for parents of seniors is to hold a few formal, sit-down conversations about specific money topics: from investing, to credit card debt, to budgeting.
Even if your child says he/she already knows it, don’t be shy about nagging or repeating or going into more depth if you have to. You may get an eye-roll or two, but the lessons are just too important and crucial not to have before they’re off to college. As much as I hate to quote a credit card commercial here, these focused, money-related discussions are “priceless.”
Happy summer and congratulations to all our graduates!
~Jennifer Faherty is a Certified Life Coach, specializing in helping women find their passion and develop a healthy relationship with money. She can be found at www.jenniferfaherty.com or on Twitter @jenniferfaherty.