Want to give your kids a wonderful gift that will last a lifetime and help them achieve their dreams? No doubt you’ve guessed that it’s not the latest video game or computer gizmo at the mall. Those are fleeting contributions to a young person’s happiness.
Give them a healthy, positive, self-confident attitude toward money and you’ve made a real contribution to their future. It’s not hard to do: Parents only need to set a good example of sound money management and let the kids watch and learn. Kids need to see how money works in the world, how it comes into the family budget and how it can be used both wisely and well.
Setting a good example starts with parents who understand their own money attitudes and make adjustments if needed. Money is a tool for living, a medium of exchange. Kids need to see that the green stuff is neither good nor bad. We can all learn to manage it and use it to achieve our goals in life.
Families who talk calmly and openly about money are way ahead of the game. If kids see their parents arguing about money, spending recklessly, or agonizing over every purchase, they get the wrong impression about the power of money. Negative emotions send negative messages, and money becomes scary and mysterious. Money is an ordinary part of life and learning to manage it should be fun, easy, and interesting.
Help children understand the family finances by letting them share the tasks of money management. As they watch you pay bills, talk about the process of earning and spending. Kids can help with budgeting and shopping for items they want and need—and learn the difference.
Let them help plan a family vacation that involves some spending and saving choices. Children learn that sometimes sacrifices need to be made to achieve desirable goals—like that trip to Hawaii. Positive messages about money come from feelings of confidence and respect. When kids see parents budget, plan, and save to reach their goals, they feel empowered to do the same.
Making sure your kids develop a positive, healthy relationship with money helps them grow up feeling comfortable in the real world of work and commerce. Young adults who have watched their parents living within their means, saving and investing for the future, while enjoying life, too, have a head start on their own path to prosperity and well-being.