by Alicia Wanek | Staff Writer
My son’s teacher gave birth this week to her first child. When my twins were born I thought 18 years seemed like such a long time to teach them everything they would need to know to live successful adult lives. Boy, was I wrong! Now that they are in high school, I feel like I have very little time left to make sure they’ll be able to function in the big wide world. Will they be able to live on their own and take care of themselves? How do we teach them to appreciate the value of a dollar? In this season filled with abundance, we also have the opportunity to share with our children the gift of financial savvy.
Chuck Cowell, Dallas Market Chairman for Guaranty Bank & Trust, says the key is to start early. “The earlier kids get exposed to saving money and learning fiscal responsibility, the better.” He recommends letting even young children have money of their own. As they get older, you can help them open their own checking account with a debit card, preferably at a bank that will work with them from day one. Let them see how a community bank with “a face behind it” can offer a personal relationship with even the youngest client.
Next, Chuck says that when kids turn 18, you can help them build a good credit history.
At first, their car insurance rates are based on credit history. Then, as they begin to apply for jobs, employers will check their credit scores. “Your credit score is a sign of how you handle yourself. Bad credit sinks you,” says Chuck.
Much of what kids learn comes from how they see their parents handle money. Bryan Camper, certified financial planner and wealth manager with Camper Rogers believes, “Parents don’t always understand how their example sets the tone their kids will follow. If they spend more than they make, their kids will too. If they live frugally, so will their children. Their ‘financial DNA’ is established early.”
Some of the lessons have to be taught. Showing kids how to create a budget, getting them to donate some of their own money to charity, and explaining how interest rates affect actual cost are lessons they likely won’t learn in school. Even bigger is helping them to see the difference between wants and needs. They need clothes, but they don’t have to have name-brands, for example. Bryan believes this generation often has “an artificial sense of need.” You, as parents, may have to make some non-popular decisions to help them learn that lesson.
You may or may not be comfortable discussing your personal finances with your children, but you can discuss basic principles. Let your children know how you make financial decisions. “We had to replace the air conditioning unit this spring, so we’ll have to adjust our vacation plans this summer.” Or, “Your mom has been working hard and got a bonus. What do you think we should use the money for?”
These days kids may see their parents as their personal ATM. Today’s kids aren’t used to delayed gratification and tend to be more impulsive with their purchases. “It’s important for them to know what it means to bring in their own money. It’s easier to teach lessons of fiscal responsibility when the money is earned rather than given,” according to Bryan.
This lesson was driven home in my own family. My twin daughters got iPads when they were 12 and thought it would be unfair for their younger brother to get one any earlier. He took it upon himself to clean up after neighbors’ dogs, ask grandparents for odd jobs, and save his birthday money to purchase his own device. The proud look on his face when he pulled out his own crumpled wad of cash was priceless. I was convinced that he learned a big lesson that day – and so did I.