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So what's a money-shy parent to do? Here are a few simple, age-appropriate activities and conversation-starters you can bank on, just in time for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education's "Talk with Our Kids about Money Day," on April 15.
An outing to the grocery store is right on the money for this age group. Be sure to take cash along and begin with an explanation of where it comes from: Mom and Dad earn money by working so they can pay for the family's needs, save for the future and hopefully buy a few fun things, too.
Put that knowledge into action by heading over to the cookie or ice-cream aisle. Let kids choose one item within given parameters — say, under $5 and with a "sale" tag — for a memorable introduction to strategic shopping. When I did this with my son when he was younger, he spent about 10 minutes looking at every single frozen treat available to weigh his options – he was so thrilled to be given the power to choose. Honestly, you'd think it was a life or death decision!
For an added lesson at the checkout, help kids count out the bills and coins for payment and whatever change they get in return.
If you don't already give your child an allowance, it's a great time to start. Even a Toonie a week can help kids at this age begin to learn about money management and delayed gratification. The key is to help them take charge of their spending in a specific area — for example, their collection of hockey cards or stickers. As a side benefit, you have a built-in response every time your child asks you to buy that item: "No, that’s what your allowance is for. If you don’t have enough money now, save up until you do."
With summer break on the way, ask middle schoolers to consider casual employment such as walking a neighbour's dog, babysitting or yardwork. As a motivator, figure out how many hours they'd need to work to save up for a coveted item. A weekly three-hour babysitting gig, for example, may be all it takes to earn enough for the purchase by summer's end. (If your budget allows, you might also consider matching their earnings as an extra incentive.)
Any iPhone fans out there? Now that you’ve got your teens' attention, ask them to guess how long it would take to pay off (and how much interest they'd pay) on a new iPhone 6 if they paid for it by credit card, making only the minimum monthly payments. Then use an online payment calculator (like this one) to show the scary reality of double-digit interest. Spoiler alert: at a cost of roughly $1,000 (including tax) for the phone, it would take a full decade to pay off the balance, and they would have paid $1,800 — nearly double the original price.
Tamar Satov is a senior editor at CPA Magazine and blogs about Raising Money-Smart Kids as part of CPA Canada's financial literacy program. CPA Canada actively participates in the effort to improve financial literacy in Canada. Visit CPA Canada’s website to learn more: www.cpacanada.ca
Looking for more information on money to give to your children? Check out our 7 things teens need to know about money.