Teaching Your Children About Money

In this article Teaching Children the Value of a Dollar in a Debt Filled World the author states, “Responsibly using money is one of the most important things we learn in our lifetime, and yet it’s a lesson too few of us take the time to teach our kids.

My personal experience as a child with money: practically nil.  I was not given allowance, although we were supposed to get an allowance of one quarter a week.  This was in the 70s not the 40s, mind you. Now I say we were supposed to get a quarter because that is what my mother wrote down in her little log book.

I could never understand the point of the exercise, because it’s not like at any time of the year she had an extra $91 to hand out in allowance (there were seven of us).  We were poor, but not destitute.  We never went without a meal, and I can only remember one time when we ate pinto beans and homemade flour tortillas for a week straight. Not that any of us cared, since we loved this meal.

We received a new pair of tennis shoes every year, my mom shopped the dank and dark thrift stores of that era (they were always in huge, swamp cooled buildings with tall ceilings, poorly lit and musty smelling) and we made good use of hand me downs.  I was the oldest, so my “new” clothes were always from the thrift store. My mom also sewed and usually each year we had a brand new beautiful dress to wear to church on Easter Sunday.

In spite of my lack of experience with money, I spent years watching the adults around me, and I was convinced I’d do much, much better than what I was seeing.

When my children were growing up, we were almost as poor as when I was growing up, one difference being that I made a point to buy my own home whereas my mother always rented and we were evicted more than once (not always her fault, one time there was a gas leak and the owner decided to let the fire department torch the place instead of fixing it).  I’m sure that had a huge impact on me as for my entire life I have had zero desire to rent.  Even though I was on welfare as a young mother, I managed to buy the manufactured home we lived in thanks to the generosity and help from my step-grandparents who were willing to loan me the money (which I faithfully paid back). Money was pretty tight, especially when I was actively paying off my credit card debt the first time. And so because money was so tight, I did not give my children allowance.  Instead, I did my best to get the things they wanted as they asked.  It was really interesting at Christmas – since I tried to get their Lego sets or video games as they had an interest, and they knew I did what I could when I could, they usually could not think of anything they wanted for Christmas.  So I hope they did not feel as deprived as I did growing up.

But I didn’t get a chance to instruct them with actual money, and I have worried about that over the years. My boss tells me how as her children were old enough to drive, with that privilege came the responsibility of doing the family grocery shopping.  She would hand them a list of meals and the money, and they had to sit down and make the list and buy the food for the whole family. What an excellent, real life way to instruct children about money.

Even though I was not able to physically hand my children money and train them to spend it responsibly, they saw how money was handled, just like I saw how money was handled when I was growing up.  It is always a challenge teaching children, and there is never any guarantee that they will take your advice and instruction.  In spite of my fears, it appears that my youngest son is managing his finances appropriately.  There were a few glitches at the beginning but I think he’s handling things well.  I’m proud of him.

Do you have children?  Are you teaching them about money?



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