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cash and coinsFinancial Literacy: Why Doesn’t Money Grow on Trees and Other Important Questions
by Marjorie Dorfman

While the issue and importance of the coined phrase "financial literacy" might not be a concern that is sweeping our nation, it really should be. We are a nation of credit card debtors, and who would ever have thought back in those carefree kinder-garden days that after ABC would come D for debt? We must learn as children (and pass it on to ours) how to handle this thing called money and not just as a means for solving mathematical problems. Read on, whether you count by day or night.

financial textbookFor many, discussing money is a very private affair and understandably so. It is almost that third unspoken no-no of discussions in polite company following religion and politics. Each family perceives that green stuff differently and each family inflicts (yes, that it is the proper word) their ethical and practical concepts of money onto their children. Money or the lack thereof, represents a family tradition almost like good teeth and family silver, but is privacy the right way to go? Aye, there is the rub, green and otherwise.

But all is not doom, gloom and blind acceptance. The life-long benefits gained from teaching children good "money habits" are well worth the effort, and the consequences of not doing so last just as long. There are reasons (silly though they might be) why many people don’t like to discuss money with children. Some of these include: thinking that it is a taboo subject, not having (or finding) the time, or thinking that the family doesn’t have enough money to make it a viable subject. For a child to develop in a healthy manner, it is vital that parents discuss openly their feelings and opinions about money (different for each parent) in order to establish a consistent approach. The way to do this, no matter how you feel about that "green stuff," is to consider the following questions in your next discussion with your child:
money on tree
How can I as a parent create an open environment for the discussion of our family money issues?
How should my children receive their money? Is an allowance best?
How do we as a family really feel about money, and what are we communicating to our children about it?
How will we go about teaching our children about money? What structured plans do we have or need to make?
What is the best way to deal with our children’s differences in handling money? Should it be done by stage of development, special needs or personality differences?
How do we deal with peer pressure and the effects of advertising on our children’s buying requests?

learning numbersEven if you couldn’t before, surely now you can see that these questions are not easily addressed and require a great deal of thought and preparation to answer adequately. Take the time to do so as your child’s financial future is at stake. In addition to these hard questions, also consider the following guidelines:
Do not dictate a "money policy." Guide and direct your children into the "true money light."
Include all family members in all discussions pertaining to money matters as appropriate for their ages.
Let your children know that you can’t always afford to buy the things you want for yourself. They need to know that parents say "no" to themselves as well as to them.

teaching kids about money Teaching your children about money goes beyond the obvious. Inspiring them to save and preparing them for employment are vital aspects of adulthood, but not more important than imparting to them the wisdom about the positive and negative aspects of the meaning of money. A good example of this can be found in the concept of gift giving. It is important for children to learn to show love for someone by buying them a gift, but it is equally significant to teach them to show love through words and actions.

learning financeMoney should be discussed in every household in terms of all the thoughts, beliefs, feelings and values attached to it. For both parents and children it can be a source of conflict, which often involves compromise. Parents must remember to think in children’s terms when teaching children about money. For example, a child may ask how much a parent earns, but not because that’s the true answer he or she is looking for. In all likelihood, what they really want to know is why they can’t have a certain toy or something of that ilk. It is important when answering a child for parents to use examples that match the child’s stage of development rather than the child’s actual age in years.

studentsDo not underestimate your children. Their capacity to learn is enormous, and they do so more indirectly through observation and example than directly. Consider every family occasion when money is earned, spent, donated, shared or borrowed as an opportunity to teach children how the money world works and what thoughts and feelings comprise moneymaking decisions. There is no right or wrong way to provide children with money. Each family situation is unique and deciding whether or not to use an allowance should be a family decision.

Allowances can be touchy subjects because amounts for children are geared to what their friends are getting. Many parents may feel pressured by their children into giving an allowance, but there may not be enough family money to do so or parents may not want to for whatever reason. There are other options to provide meaningful learning experiences about money for children. Money can be earned for chores or given as gift or as a reward for scholarly achievement. Whatever be the case, allowance and other money matters involving children must be family matters, discussions that involve everyone. Remember too, that allowances can be adjusted according to financial changes.

school busIn conclusion, ask not what you can do for financial literacy but what financial literacy can do for you! If this sounds reminiscent of another slogan from another day, it is completely your imagination and not my problem. Change the world today the only way anyone of us can, one child, one attitude, one family at a time!

Happy and responsible spending to all, and to all a good…whatever!

© 2008 Marjorie Dorfman
University of Minnesota
Practical Money Skills

Did you know . . . ?

We found this great book:

Financial Peace Jr.
Teaching Kids About Money!
"Cool Tools" for Training Tomorrow's Millionaires!

by Dave Ramsey

Financial Peace, Jr.

This book will teach children about spending, saving and giving. There is a short pamphlet on the actual "teaching" and the rest of the package has the chore list, envelope system and tracking for savings. This is a hands-on tool-set not a "how to" book. Great way to teach your children financial responsibility. But the first thing my sons did was to save enough money to buy a wallet and get rid of the envelopes.

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