At some point we’ve all struggled with our finances. Maybe you were too young and immature to not realize the power of a budget. Perhaps you lost your job and had to rely on credit cards until you got back on your feet.
Even when you’re financially sound, some still struggle with bad money habits — like impulse or convenient purchases. Instead of buying enough food to last you for the upcoming week, which requires you also preparing your meals, you opt to grab a pizza on the way home. Yes, that’s easier — and you couldn’t resist the temptation.
While not bad occasionally, you need to address and stop these habits ASAP and encourage good habits.
This choice may be more challenging than it sounds it you were never taught the value of a dollar as child.
Money habits are set by age seven.
Back in 2013 research from behavior experts David Whitebread and Sue Bingham of the University of Cambridge found that our approach to money, such as planning ahead and delaying gratification, is set by age seven.
“The window is zero to seven,” said Guy Shone, former research director for the British government’s, “Money Advice Service.” This service publish studies which have found “It’s very hard to reverse those habits later in life.”
Destined to a life of debt?
This doesn’t mean that you’re destined to a life of debt if you missed this window. It does, however, mean that changing your money habits may be more challenging. So, the researchers recommend that parents start teaching their children good money habits as early as possible.
“Parents as a group typically don’t feel particularly comfortable talking to kids about money,” said Shone. “At the same time, we know there’s a huge effect we have, but we underestimate how powerful we are as parents.”
What is the right time to start?
So, when exactly should you start talking to your kids about money habits? Should you wait until they’re at age seven?
Consider these books.
“The short answer is now,” writes Beth Kobliner. Kobliner is the author of “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties,” and “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not).”
“By age three, your kids can grasp basic money concepts. By age seven, many of their money habits are already set,” adds Kobliner.
“That doesn’t mean you throw in the towel after first grade. Start wringing money lessons out of everyday life.”
Money lessons and activities by age.
Financial lessons ages three to age five.
The Lesson: You’re going to have to wait to buy something that you want.
“This is a hard concept for people to learn of all ages,” Kobliner tells Forbes. However, as evidenced by 40 years of research at Stanford University, delayed gratification is the one quality that can predict if people will be successful or not.
In fact, the Stanford research found that children who are willing to delay gratification have higher SAT scores, better social skills, better responses to stress, and lower levels of substance abuse.
Wait and save.
With that in mind, during this time, you need to teach your children that if they want something, they have to wait and save for it. Additionally, you should teach them that just because they’re in a store doesn’t mean that they’ll walk out with something.
If you were shopping for a birthday present for your niece, then explain that you’re only there to get your niece a birthday present and that’s it.
The ability to delay gratification can also predict how successful one will be as a grown-up. Kids at this age need to learn that if they really want something, they should wait and save to buy it.
Financial activities for ages three to five.
- Whenever your child is waiting in line, remind them the importance of waiting. For example, they can’t go down a slide until the children in front of them go first.
- Label three jars; “Saving,” “Spending” or “Sharing.” When your child receives money divide it equally among the jars. So, the spending jar is for small purchases, the saving jar is for more expensive items, and the sharing jar goes towards a donation to a friend’s charity. Use clear jars so that your child can actually see the money grow.
- Allow your child to set a goal, such as saving to purchase a new toy. If you don’t want them to get frustrated, make sure it’s not that expensive so it doesn’t take months to achieve. If it is an expensive goal, then develop a matching program. Every time money is added to the savings jar, help them count how much they have and how much more they’ll need to reach their goal.
- Don’t spend too much tim — lecturing with them about money. If they saved $10 for a toy, then have them take out some money of their jar and then physically hand it to the cashier.
Financial activities for ages six to ten.
The Lesson: You need to make choices about how to spend your money.
This is the time when you need to explain to your child that money doesn’t grow on trees. As such, you need to spend your money wisely because when it’s gone, it’s gone. You also want to keep encouraging them to set goals, as well as activities like the saving, spending, and sharing jars.
Other financial activities for ages six to ten.
- Invite your child to be a part of certain financial decisions, like when at the grocery store. But, make sure you give them boundaries on what to purchase. For example, they have $4 to buy juice. To guide them, explain the financial difference between generic and brands names.
- When out shopping, tell them how you’re making your financial decisions. For example, you don’t need to buy the ingredients for spahagthtti and meatballs this week because the family is going out to an Italian restaurant. Also ask questions like if certain items are cheaper elsewhere and can some items be borrowed.
- Give them commissions for chores they can handle like cleaning their room, taking out the trash, or walking the dog instead of an allowance.
Financial lessons ages three to age five.
The Lesson: Thanks to compound interest, the sooner they save, the faster their money will grow.
Here’s where you start to focus on long-term goals by introducing compound interest. This is simply where you earn interest on your savings and the past interest from your savings.
Activities for ages 11 To 13.
- Describe compound interest using specific numbers, suggests Kobliner. Explain, “If you set aside $100 every year starting at age 14, you’d have $23,000 by age 65, but if you start at age 35, you’ll only have $7,000 by age 65.”
- Encourage your child to do compound interest calculations on Investor.gov so that they can see how much they’ll earn.
- Have your child establish long-term goals for more expensive items. The idea here is to have them think about the actions and sacrifices they need to make if they want something. For example, instead of buying a snack each day after school, they put that money aside for a new gaming system.
Lessons ages 14-18.
The Lesson: Take into consideration the cost of each school when comparing colleges.
“Whether your kid can count on a sizable inheritance or your family is living pay period to pay period, a college degree is a must,” writes Kobliner. “
Along with the intangible life skills you get from those formative years on campus, college comes with a bankable payout: A Georgetown University study found that, on average, college graduates make a million dollars more over a lifetime than people who stop at high school.”
Of course, after searching for the “net price calculator” on college websites to see how much each costs, you and your child may be discouraged. But, besides discussing the value of a college education, share ways that you and your child can start saving.
Activities For Ages 14 To 18.
- By the ninth grade, you need to sit down with your child and discuss how much you can contribute to their college education each year. Also discuss options like financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Also go over tips on how to take out student loans.
- Let your child use this College Scorecard so that they compare how much each college costs. They should also look into the employment prospects of graduates are and how student loan debt will influence their lifestyle.
- Start estimating their financial aid with the FAFSA4caster tool at fafsa.ed.gov. You can also estimate monthly loan payments on studentaid.ed.gov and loan repayment options like Pay As You Earn.
- Make them open a bank account so that they can become responsible for their money. Start by helping them set a simply budget.
- And, help them figure out how to make money, like getting a part-time job or encouraging them to be an entrepreneur. It won’t just put money into their bank account, it could also help them academically. Research by Dr. Gary R. Pike of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has found students who work 20 hours or less a week at an on-campus jobs receive better grades since they’re more engaged in student life
The Lesson: Only use a credit card if they’re able to pay the balance off each month.
Credit card is an easy-trap to fall into. If your child lives off credit card during college, they’re not only going to be drowning in student loan debt, but also credit card debt. During this time, stress the importance of credit card usage.
Activities For Ages 18+
- If you cosign on a credit card, then make sure you child know that late payment may also affect your credit history.
- With your child, look for credit card that offers a low interest rate, along with no annual fee. Check out site like Bankrate, Creditcards.com, Credit.com, or Cardratings.com.
- Remind that not to use their credit card for everyday items. This way if there’s an emergency, they have enough on their card to cover the expense. However, make sure you also stress the importance of having at least three months’ worth of living expenses emergency savings instead of using a credit card.
Raising a future millionaire.
If you want your child to develop good money habits, then you need to start working with them as a young age. Doing so won’t just set them up for success, it will also help them become a millionaire.
If you need a starting point, then use this acronym from Jeanie Ahn: “SGSG,” which stands for Save, Grow, Spend, and Give.
- Saving. Whenever your child receives money, like for their birthday, get them into the habit of placing that money into a savings account immediately.
- Growing. Not the easiest of tasks, but Ahn says, “but you can still set the stage with stories around growing, investing and patience. For little ones, talk about how a plant grows from a little seed with some water, dirt, sun, and of course, time.”
- Spending. Let them know that overspending leads to borrowing — which means debt. Teach them how to spend only what they live by creating and sticking to a budget.
- Giving. Pick a charity or cause together. It doesn’t only make the world a little better, it also shows your children that there’s more to life than just money.