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Early financial literacy can lead to lifelong patterns that in turn can lead to financial stability, Karges adds. In bygone times, kids had to work to help support the family -- still do, in many places -- and so, from a very early age, developed an understanding of how hard it is to earn money, how quickly it is spent and just what the cost of living really is.
Fast-forward to today: With your wide-eyed toddler by your side, you visit the bank machine and withdraw a few crisp, new bills. The next thing they know, you've traded the money in for an ice cream, some food or toys. And it was all effortless -- like magic!
Unless little Susie wins the lottery or Johnny marries into a wealthy family, chances are they are going to have to work for a living. And if we ask too little and provide too much, kids will enter the world unprepared and may spend themselves into deep trouble as quickly as we can say, "credit card debt." But fear not, here are 10 dos and don'ts to help you raise a smart saver and money-savvy kid.
1. Do get kids their very own piggy bank from day one. Make it a permanent part of the nursery, and then later, the bedroom. Deposit spare change as a reward and make a real fuss of it. It won't make sense for several years, but they will develop a sense of ownership, pride and accomplishment as it fills. Let them make their own choices as to when and how to spend the coins inside.
2. Do take your elementary-school-age child to the bank and open a savings account in his or her name. See if the bank offers a "My First Account" type of product -- they often include bankbooks (remember those?) that let a kid see the numbers grow.
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3. Do start giving your kid an allowance at about age five or at the same age when you start expecting and asking them to pick up and put away their toys, help with the dishes or fold laundry. In other words, make it clear that there is no free lunch. Let them know what your expectations of them are and that if they accomplish the tasks you set out for them, they will receive a certain amount every week -- to save or spend.
4. Do offer kids a chance to earn extra income around the house. No, don't pay them to clean their room or walk the dog they begged you to adopt, but washing windows, trimming the hedges, vacuuming out the car -- these are tasks no one really wants to do and they should be worth a couple of bucks.
5. Do encourage older kids and teens to look for work and other means of generating income outside the home: Babysitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, you name it. There is nothing more satisfying and ego-building than enterprise and earning.
6. Do help the kids set up a lemonade stand or car wash, but take it one step further. Don't just provide them with the cups and drinks or soap and water. Rather, explain that you expect to be paid for your supplies from their earnings. This is a major lesson in the value of work and the meaning of an agreement.
7. Don't give them everything they ask for and don't feel guilty about it. It's vital that little folks learn the difference between need and want. Of course you will do your best to provide for them everything they need, but they don't need a new iPod when the one you got them for Christmas two years ago works perfectly well.
8. Do make deposits into your own savings account in front of the kids. Tell them about it and explain what you are saving for -- a rainy day, their college tuition, a cruise or retirement.
9. Don't restrict them in the spending of their money. Kids do well to learn about spending as well as saving -- after all, there is smart spending and silly spending. In other words, don't micromanage their money for them -- let them make a mistake or two. As Karges says, "Better now than later when they're buying a house or car."
10. Do teach responsibility. If Billy can't be bothered to put his bike in the garage and it gets stolen, don't replace it for him. Let him save to buy another. It's tough love and a fantastic lesson learned about taking responsibility, how much things cost and how much work goes into having the things we all want.
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