How to Teach Your Kids About Money

From ATM Etiquette to Allowances, How to Raise Your Children Into Financially Fit Adults

The single most important step in raising a money-wise child is simply for parents to be money-wise adults themselves. And that’s where so many well-intentioned moms and dads seriously drop the ball.

Look, we all know that kids are sponges. They don’t do as you say, they do as you do. Kids study your every move, and unfortunately I see plenty of parents imparting some pretty awful financial moves.

I will never forget the time I sat down with a class of eight- and nine-year-olds and asked them what their greatest fear was. I didn’t even say money fear—just plain old fear. One of the children stepped right up and flatly told me her biggest fear was that she would end up having to support her parents. I was of course stunned by this and asked why she felt that way. She said she constantly heard her parents arguing at night and her mother telling her father things like, “If you don’t stop buying all those expensive electronic gadgets we are going to end up in the poor house. And then who will support us?” But what truly scared me was when I asked the other kids if anybody else felt like this, nearly every one of them seemed to have a similar story.

Parents, I know you want the best for your children. So you should realize how much that means making sure you’ve got your own financial act together. Children who watch parents do stuff like ring up huge credit card bills buying goodies and vacations they can’t afford tend to dig the same financial holes themselves as adults. Whatever you may say to the contrary, a child who sees bills pile up unpaid is getting a damaging lesson in managing money—one they may struggle all their lives to overcome, just as the children of folks who don’t eat right or exercise enough so often grow up to suffer through variations on those same bad habits, even when they’ve been “taught” to know better.

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