What’s for dinner?
Parents might want to serve their children a regular helping of conversation about money.
Lucy Schrader, University of Missouri Extension personal financial planning specialist, suggests sprinkling simple, gentle, repetitive messages about the family’s finances and values throughout regular dinner-table conversations with children as young as kindergarten-age.
“Home is where children can learn how to handle debt, become wise consumers and practice smart saving strategies,” Schrader says. “It’s also where children learn to share the wealth and learn about giving back time and talent to the community.”
Schrader recommends that parents talk to each other about ways to deliver mini-messages to their children about the family’s money values.
Parents can reinforce those messages by example through everyday activities such as trips to the grocery store. Show children how to compare costs, quality and value, and regularly discuss needs vs. wants, she says.
Schrader says that one of the most effective questions to ask a child is, “If I buy this now, what can I not buy later?” Children need opportunities to manage their money by deciding if they want to spend their money on a small item now or save for a big item later.
Schrader also suggests simple, visual ways to show children how their money grows by setting up three money jars or envelopes: one designated for sharing or giving back to the community, one for saving and one for spending.
Parents should guide, but not judge, their children’s choices on how they share or spend their money. Allowances provide children with opportunities to learn about saving, delayed gratification, decision-making and money management. Each family has to decide the amount that will be given and parents should help the child develop and follow a spending plan.
“It’s okay to say, ‘We haven’t talked about money before, but we’re going to start,’” Schrader said.
Personal questions about money can be uncomfortable. It takes practice, but the rewards are worth it.
University of Missouri Extension offers numerous resources on financial planning. Contact your local MU Extension center or go to www.missourifamilies.org/money.