Financial Lessons Don’t Always Come From a Book

This is a guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Suzanne Cramer. Please make her feel welcome!

The debate about whether or not personal finance should be taught in schools has been waging for years. Parents feel these are lessons that should be taught from a textbook, while teachers and administrators feel these are lessons best learned at home. With little resolution and the sad state of our economy I am not so sure who is right or if it should be a little bit of both.

I was raised in a family where financial lessons were taught - not at a desk, or through homework assignments - but rather involvement in day to day activities where I soaked up financial lessons that have proved valuable in my adult life.

Whether or not personal finance is taught in schools, I feel it is my duty as a parent to teach my son financial lessons just like I taught him how to tie his shoes. The harsh reality is that many parents, myself included, unknowingly are teaching our children poor financial habits.

Here’s how you can make learning about personal finance a reality for your child and maybe learn a few things yourself.

Saving Money

One of the easiest financial lessons to teach a child is how to save. Kids are thrilled with dropping a penny into a piggybank. A penny is just a penny, but even pennies add up! By teaching your kids the simple concept of saving you are paving the way for a lifetime of good money management.

An older child may benefit from a trip to the bank to open up a savings account of their own. By explaining to them the principles of interest and how depositing a little each month can help them achieve their goals, such as a toy or video game you are teaching them valuable lessons; how interest works, the value of money, and how to reach goals.

When it comes to saving money leading by example is powerful.

  • Showing your child that saving up for a wanted item, instead of whipping out your credit card to buy it can keep you out of debt.
  • Using coupons and shopping sales shows children you can be a savvy shopper and pay less by taking a few extra minutes out of your day.

It’s All in a Day’s Work

One of the greatest life lessons my father taught me was to give it my all, no matter what. My father was a small business owner and that meant long hours, few vacations, and a lot of sacrifice. He made it to work even when he was sick; if he was tired he just worked harder.

Today I view work the same way, “Go big or go home.” Teaching your children that hard work pays off gives them the ability to see that they can accomplish whatever they set out to do, even if it is hard work.

The real world is tough and sugar coating it for your kids by just giving them everything isn’t doing them any favors. So if they ask for a pet make them work for it first. Have them volunteer at your local animal shelter to “gain experience”. If they make it through that challenge encourage them to save for part of the cost of pet care. For example if they receive an allowance a certain amount must be set aside to care for their pet. Your child learns several lessons this way; how to actually care for a pet, how much the pet is worth to them, and are they willing to make sacrifices.

Give it to Them Straight

When discussing the economy with your kids, how much should you tell them? Janet Bodnar, author of Raising Money Smart Kids, was recently interviewed on NPR about how to explain the economy to kids. According to Bodnar, although it depends on the age of the child, in general you should be honest without overburdening them with scary information they don’t need. If there’s a lay off in your future, explain the situation truthfully while offering solutions (unemployment benefits, for example, or how you’re going to search for another job). As painful as it is to explain, consider it an opportunity to give your kids a real-life lesson.

Remember, we can’t always control the world around us, but we can instill our children with the values and lessons to make it in the real world. Disappointment happens but so does success. Reacting to the highs and lows of finances is a lifelong process—as you know yourself!

What lessons are you teaching your kids at home?

Bio: Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @ADivorcedMom and @AskCareOne where she shares her insights on divorce and managing your finances.

12 Responses to “Financial Lessons Don’t Always Come From a Book”

  1. Tanner E says:

    I don't have any kids of my own, and there were no lessons to be learned at my parent's house growing up. We knew about the 'rich' and the 'poor'. We know which we belonged to and which other people belonged to. I definitely think that making a kid 'work' or 'save' for something is possibly the single most important thing that will lead to understanding on a lot of other things. Most things in life you have to work for, save for, or you can wing it and face the consequences at a later date, if any (a very good lesson of consequences, but that's probably best saved for older kids). I don't think enough kids understand just how hard life can be, and I am genuinely shocked/slightly disgusted when 9 year olds are posting on FB from their iPhones or iPads how hard they have it…

  2. Pam at MoneyTrail says:

    Having an open, ongoing dialogue about money with your kids is incredibly important.  If money is a "taboo" topic, then you are assuming that they are learning from other sources.  There are age appropriate ways to talk with kids and teens.  It is also crucial that the kids & teens have some money to use within the guidelines of the family.  It can come from allowance, paid chores, etc.  They just need to practice money management while they are young and the consequences are minor.  They will probably make some mistakes, but that's ok…you can learn a lot from a mistake.

  3. Miss T says:

    We don't have kids yet but talking about money openly with them is definitely something in our plans. We want to educate our kids about finance as best we can because it is just as important as other things like math, science, and people skills. We want them to have the best chance in life they can have. 

  4. Newlyweds on a Budge says:

    I don't have any children yet, but I definitely would like them to know the value of a dollar. My husband grew up in a more affluent home than I did, and I can see in his spending habits how much he doesn't "get" budgeting or saving and spending because everything was pretty much handed to him.
    I want my children to know the importance of hard work.

  5. John@moneyprinciple says:

    Kids can understand a lot more than many people think.  Our 10 year old was already into Monopoly when we got Cashflow 101 and he immediately understood that.  So this is some sort of financial education plus he saves his pocket money and buys rip-sticks and things like that. 

  6. Doctor Stock says:

    Nope, many financial lessons can't be found in books…. thus all the blogs. It's so important to teach savings and hard work as keys to a healthy financial plan… because there's too much entitlement today.

  7. Jai Catalano says:

    Great point. Actually there are a lot of things that don't come from a book. And you said it well… give it to them straight. I would tell them now but they are 2 and 10 months. :)


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