Giving your kids a head-start on valuable, healthy money management skills can help them attain a secure financial foundation that will benefit them now and in the future. Like with any other habit, saving money takes time and repetition to really stick. So, it's important to help them understand how and why saving is crucial. Not sure where to start? Consider implementing these ten age-appropriate rules and lessons to improve your child's savings smarts today.
Wants vs. Needs
Distinguishing between wants and needs is a life-long practice, which makes it the perfect place to start with kids. Explain that needs are things like food, shelter, transportation, and clothing. Wants are everything else that can make life fun and enjoyable. When you're at the store together, ask your child which items are wants and which are needs. You can also use examples from your own budget to show how needs take spending priority over wants.
Pick a Place to Save
For younger kids, having a physical piggy bank or other container they can easily empty to see and count their money is perfect. Making a "piggy bank" can also be a fun and creative activity that you can do with your child while you talk to them about the importance of saving. In addition to a piggy bank at home, you can set up a youth savings, and for older kids, a checking account.
Let Them Earn and Handle Their Own Money
Allowances for kids can be a hot topic — and there are a lot of different ways to earn and pay out allowances. By allowing your kids to earn and save their own money, they'll be learning the value of work, the value of time spent working in exchange for money, and the value of responsibility in how they handle their hard-earned money.
Set Saving Goals
Saving without a purpose doesn’t offer much in the way of motivation. If you help your child craft a personal saving goal, they will be more invested in the work and discipline required to reach that goal. Break a large goal down, like saving for a new bike or game console, into more manageable actions and targets — how many dollars a week must they earn and save to reach their goal by a deadline?
If your child wants to save for multiple goals, here are some creative ideas to help them visualize their goals and stay on track:
- Create saving containers for each goal. Have them label and decorate them.
- Put a picture of the item they’re saving for next to the container or piggy bank.
- Draw a thermometer or other visual indicator they can fill in to visualize how they’re getting closer to their goal.
- (For younger children, you could offer small rewards for reaching percentages saved, like 50%, 75%, etc.)
- Distribute allowances or pay for work in small denomination bills that can be easily split and encourages saving.
Part of achieving saving goals, and eventually being able to pay bills on time, is knowing where your money is going. Have your child write down their purchases for a week or maybe a month. Encourage them to think about how they’re spending money and how much faster they could reach their saving goal if they changed their spending habits.
To jump start your child's saving habits, you could offer a saving incentive that mimics an employer who makes a matching contribution to retirement savings. Or tell them you’ll contribute a specific amount of money toward their goal once they reach a certain benchmark, or if they decide to save all of their allowance for two weeks in a row. This can really help if your child has set an ambitious saving goal.
Let Them Learn From Mistakes
Learning from mistakes as a kid, when the financial stakes are considerably lower, can teach impactful lessons without the risk of long-lasting financial damage. It may be difficult for you as a parent to watch your child make an unwise money move, but not letting them make those mistakes now could pave the way for bigger mistakes later in life when you’re not there to bail them out.
Be Their Creditor/Lender
Not living beyond your means is an important rule to live by. However, loans and credit cards allow people to make large purchases they can’t afford at the moment. This isn’t always a terrible thing, but it can be a slippery slope into consumer debt when you don't manage your finances correctly. To teach kids how loans, credit, and interest work, you can offer to lend your child the money for a purchase they’re too impatient to save for. Lend the money, but explain you’ll require payment from the allowance you provide, with interest. This lesson will teach them how pay down debts and budget their finances. Not only that, it further emphasizes the importance of saving — while saving may mean delaying gratification, it won't end up costing more if you wait.
Talk About Money
You heard right. If you want your children to develop financial wisdom and a healthy relationship with money, you must allow and encourage an open and ongoing conversation about money. Answer their questions truthfully, even if that means admitting you don’t know the answer or admitting your own financial mistakes. Those will be teachable moments! Talking openly about money and spending decisions will allow you to emphasize values like hard work and responsible spending.
Set a Good Example
If you haven’t already begun your own family saving journey with an emergency fund, a college saving account, or your own retirement plans, start now and show your children how you’re budgeting and saving for these worthy goals. Show them how the family budget works. Tell them when you’re moving money to into a savings account instead of spending that money on a want.
You are the best teacher for your kids to learn from about saving and spending habits — especially because you’ve probably made mistakes and learned lessons you can pass down to them!
Youth Month Account Opening Special
Open a new youth savings account in April for your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, and you'll receive $10* in your account. Plus, they'll get a cool prize for opening an account with us!
*Referral account must have a minimum of $5 to qualify. $10 referral applies to new member accounts only. May not be combined with other offers.
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