Most adults have some kind of financial plan, taking note of spending, putting a little away each month and some enlisting the help of a licensed financial planner to help set financial goals and design strategies to reach them.
But what about the children?
They need to learn that money does not just come out of an ATM machine. Schools generally do not educate children about finances and the benefits of saving so it is up to the parents to provide these lessons.
Here are five ways to kick-start a child’s financial education and teach them the benefits of saving.
1. Start a conversation
The first step to teach a child about saving is to talk about money in general. It should not be a scary or taboo subject.
Ask them questions such as “are we comfortable enough” or “is debt bad?” just to see what they say.
This will help determine their level of understanding about finances and is a starting point to discussing what can be done to improve them.
Encourage children to save part of their allowance. Do not force it or make it a burden. Instead, encourage them by visualising how much money they can save over time.
Parents must let children know they are always there to answer questions about money and that all questions are good questions.
This will encourage a positive outlook and more healthy conversations about finances in the family. And the parents might learn something too, from having to come up with the answers to their children’s questions.
2. Set up a savings jar
Give the children a savings jar or piggy bank. The children can see their money growing before their eyes, which would motivate them to save more. The goal is to fill the jar or piggy bank.
The money usually comes from their allowance or money given during festive seasons. Or pay them a wage for doing chores and running errands.
This will help them develop discipline and appreciation for the value of money at a young age. The parents could even set up their own money jar as an example for the children.
3. Open a bank account
Now that the savings jar is full, what should be done with the money? Open a savings account for the child. Having a savings account is a great way for children to learn about financial management.
It motivates them if they understand that the money will grow as long as they do not touch it and keep putting money into their account. Plus, it is a great way to save up for their college education.
4. Be the model saver
Lead your child into the saving habit by setting an example. Put a savings jar in a prominent spot and add to it regularly.
Whether it is a small amount or a large one, it counts. Make sure the children can see this and frequently remind them to fill their savings jar too.
When out shopping for groceries and other necessities, teach the child to compare prices and explain to them why buying one item makes more sense than another.
Discuss quality versus price and help them understand how to make good decisions.
Repeat the message on payday. When the salary comes in, put aside a portion to prepare for a better future and for a rainy day.
5. Create a timeline for saving
For children, the concept of saving money over time can be hard to understand. Create a visible timeline so the children can see for themselves when they will reach their goal.
Create a list of targeted goals for their savings in a week, month and year. Start by listing a small amount, for example RM10 for 10 days.
After they feel comfortable with this, increase the goal. Children should not be forced or made to feel they must cut spending on necessary things such as school lunches or stationery.
The list is a guide to the process and to give them a vision of saving for the future.
Whenever a goal or checkpoint is reached, give a small reward, preferably not related to money, such as their favourite treat or a book. Telling your kids they’ve done a good job motivates them to carry on.
It is not easy to teach children how to save money. The trick is to make it fun and keep it age-appropriate. Saving is the basis of good finances and teaching the children young will benefit them in the future.