We're all familiar with the three "R"s - reading, writing and arithmetic. Perhaps we need to add a fourth "r" - riches. According to the Council for Economic Education, less than one third of states require a financial literacy course be taught in high schools. April is Financial Literacy Month, so there is no better time to talk to your children about money.
"As parents, we want what's best for our kids. That should include providing them the skills they need to be financially independent," said Mary Brockhaus, Senior Vice President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "We have the opportunity to teach them to not make some of the same financial mistakes we may have made growing up."
You don't have to introduce your kids to your financial advisor, but it is important to introduce them to finance basics — because it's possible no one else will. Use the tips below to help your children or grandchildren develop money smarts, starting as soon as they can point to something in a store and say, "I want that!"
One of the best ways to teach your child good money management habits is to give them an allowance. Using their allowance, you can help your kids learn to set priorities and distinguish between needs and wants — essential budgeting and saving skills. Start with the basics. Consider giving elementary school kids a weekly allowance equal to their age, in denominations that make it easy for them to divide their money between donating, saving and spending — say, five one-dollar bills.
Review middle schoolers' weekly expenses and decide together on a workable amount. High schoolers and college students might receive a monthly deposit to their checking account, which gives you an opportunity to teach them how to balance a checkbook, pay bills, and begin to budget a bit more independently than younger kids.
Brockhaus added, "If you want to place restrictions on how and where the allowance money can be spent, be clear up front with your child regarding those limitations. They also need to know what mom and dad are still paying for – school uniforms, sports equipment, or cell phone?"
You can also help your kids learn when they earn through traditional jobs like baby- and pet-sitting and through money received as a gift. There are also high-tech options kids can use to earn money. Teens might offer computer setup services, create websites or even partner with an adult to sell goods online. The U.S. Small Business Administration's website, sba.gov/content/young-entrepreneurs, provides tips for enterprising teens.
If you don't know how to start "the money" conversation, or if you could just use a few tips, BMO Harris Bank has created the Helpful Steps® for Parents website (bmoharris.com/parents), where you can access age-appropriate interactive learning games, get advice on teaching your kids the value of money, and access online articles, tools and tips.
Remember, the most powerful tool you have is to lead by example. Just like teaching your kids to tie their shoes and brush their teeth, it's up to you to make teaching them sound financial principles an educational priority. Ten years from now, you'll be glad you did.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!