ARE YOUR KIDS READY FOR FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE DAY?
Watermelon. Corn-on-the cob. Fireworks after sundown. Amid all the fun, it’s easy to forget that the Fourth of July is more than just another summertime barbecue: It’s a reminder that independence is something worth fighting for.
For parents, that’s an everyday challenge. We’re tasked with teaching our kids what they need to know today, so they can be successful tomorrow – from changing a car tire to preparing for a job interview. At the very top of that list (and one of the hardest topics to tackle) is financial wellness.
Teaching kids about money can be tough, especially when you’re talking about how not to spend it. But whether your child is a kindergartner or a college student, there are some basic lessons every parent should make sure to share:
1. Lead by example
Here’s something that hasn’t changed over the years: Children learn by watching the adults around them. That means it’s on you not only to make responsible financial decisions – avoiding impulse buys, saving responsibly, shopping for value, and so on – but also to explain the reasons for those decisions to your child.
2. Start simple, but start early
There are plenty of ways to teach young kids the basics of good saving habits, from traditional piggy banks to more tech-forward tools like PiggyBot and Bankaroo. Discuss the difference between wants and needs with your little one. Let them know that sometimes it’s okay to spend money on “the fun stuff” – but only if you save up for it first.
3. Put lessons into practice
Older tweens and teens can start by using a “training” debit card – one with custodial limits on how they can use it. Set them up with a mobile banking app, so they can see the value of their money grow over time, and consider offering rewards for good habits like saving.
4. Talk about credit
The average American has more than $5,000 in credit card debt – so if your child is 18 (or soon will be), make sure they understand how to manage their own credit. Once your teen is eligible for a card, help them set one up. It can be a scary transition, but it’s also an opportunity to share good habits for building and maintaining a credit score.
5. Collaborate on a financial road map
Financial planning isn’t necessarily intuitive. You can’t assume that your teen will “figure things out” when they live on their own. Instead, sit down with them and teach them how plan a mock budget. Make sure to include costs they may not fully understand, like health insurance and taxes.
Ask what goals they have for their future. Do they want to graduate debt-free? Finance a home? Start a business? Establish an emergency fund? Factor those goals into the plan in the form of monthly or yearly saving benchmarks – and help your teen connect those good habits to their long-term outcomes.
Most of all, be open to new ideas. When it comes to money management, our “best practices” and priorities have changed over the years … and that’s okay. Your job is to prepare your child for the times they’ll live in, which will be different from your own.
The important thing isn’t how they’ll navigate life’s challenges – it’s having the right attitude, the right values, and the right habits to tackle them successfully. And this Independence Day, that’s something we can all celebrate.