The teenager lost a contact lens while playing basketball in his driveway. After a brief, fruitless search, he gave up. His mother took up the cause and within minutes found the lens.
“How did you do that?” he asked. “We weren’t looking for the same thing,” she explained. “You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $150.”
Yes, kids have always had a less than stellar view of money, especially while living at home with one or more parents covering most of the expenses. They often don’t appreciate how much effort it took to work for or save the money that provided their home, clothing food and the like.
However, we have to remember that our children will not likely learn to handle their finances wisely and appreciate what they have if they haven’t been given some tools and practice using them before they leave the nest. So let me suggest five things that we as parents would be smart to put on our teaching agenda at home before they move on.
Teach them that you have to work to earn something. Too many kids get off easy when it comes to doing things around the house or they never get the experience of working for pay. Now, of course, it’s probably not wise to simply pay our children for everything they do, but as they get older there is wisdom in tying some extra chores to remuneration or their allowance.
Others may be able to get a part-time job in their later years like babysitting, cutting lawns or at a nearby store when they are old enough. And yet more and more parents these days are telling their kids to wait on work so they can add one more team or other activity to their already bloated extra-curricular schedule.
Teach them to save. If I have one financial regret in my six-plus decades of life, it’s that I didn’t commit to save at least $1 every time I got a paycheck. Of course, saving more is better and there are better options in many workplaces to help but get your kids to start the process now. We gave our kids some matching gift challenges, telling them that up to a certain point we would match the amount they saved giving them some needed motivation. But, however you do it, start a savings account that they can’t touch until you say so.
Teach them to invest. I’m not a financial expert, but investing is how money grows. And there are simple options for our sons and daughters to use that will give them a taste of how to earn more money than the pittances given by many savings options today. Work with them so that they will naturally invest or take advantages of work options that will assist them down the road.
Teach them to give. You may or may not be a person of faith, but the Bible clearly tells us that one of the blessings of following Christ is to give a portion back to God and ultimately to others. And parents, whatever motivates your charity it has to start with you! Give boldly, give sacrificially, give together as a family and talk about the blessings of doing so. When our kids were learning about money and began earning through a job or allowance we required that ten percent came off the top and was given to the church or a related group.
Teach them perspective. The ultimate goal is not for our kids to accumulate more and be rich. Some might do that and God can bless them that way. But the bigger picture is to help them learn that everything they have is from God, that we’re only taking care of it and that we’re to manage it as well as we can.
If you’ve got work to do with your kids, there’s likely still time. Have fun and . . . work hard.