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#1: Family…4 strategies to be sure they learn what you want them to learn

At the MONEYWI$E Women Conference our session on ‘Teaching kids about money’ listed Parents and other family members as the number one way kids learn.

So…what to do about that.

How effective is it when a parent tells kids to save, to plan, to budget…and then it is patently obvious that the parents don’t? Does this sound familiar? “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Strategy 1: Model the behavior you want to teach the children in your life.

Does that really work, though, especially with young people, if they don’t know you are doing it? Do young children realize their parents are going without the new plasma TV to save up for the family vacation this summer? Are they aware that their parents are putting money aside into savings each month so that when the yearly life insurance bill or the semi-annual car insurance hits they are not scrambling?

Strategy 2: Share your financial story with the children in your life.

I know, many parents try to shield their children from bad news, and if finances are tight they don’t want the kids to worry. Trust me, they are likely worrying. And possibly about the wrong things. They sense the stress and worry in you. Sharing the situation and enlisting their help not only takes some of the worry of the unknown away, but it teaches them that the family pulls together in difficult times.

So what happens if yours is a bit of a rags to riches story, and by the time your kids are late teens and forming their own habits, they only see you as a financial success? They don’t remember when you were making a choice between going to the dentist and letting them go to the band field trip. Or maybe you never told them.

Strategy 3: Share family stories of overcoming adversity.

This could be your immediate family stories. It also could be aunts or uncles or grandparents. My 23 year old came home last week having suffered a setback in his business. It helped him to hear, again, about the time his Dad and I had a ‘spec’ house on the market for 22 months. We did not go to the dentist, ate out of the garden, and barely scraped by. When he hears those stories and sees that we are doing well now, it helps him see his current situation as temporary…something he can solve.

Tell, Model, Share the story. One more strategy we came up with:
Strategy 4: Take action in the community.

When a parent feels so strongly about something that they take action on a bigger scale than their family, the child really gets the message that this is important. Some parents are active in the environment, in the arts, in kids’ sports. Admittedly, with young children, parents are often paddling as fast as they can to keep food on the table, do their jobs and provide a nurturing environment at home.

We talked about finding a way to bring the message of financial literacy to more than the children in your immediate circle.

I had Junior Achievement kits for 1st, 2nd and 5th grade with me since I’ll be volunteering at Hansen Elementary to teach 5 30-minute segments in the next six weeks. They are AMAZING kits with great tools to teach. Any adult could teach the younger grades with no more training than the 1 1/2 hour session with the JA coordinator.

What strategies have you used with the children in your life?

What worked with you when you were a child?

About the Author
Linda Keith CPA is an expert in credit risk readiness and credit analysis. She trains banks and credit unions throughout the United States, both in-house and in open-enrollment sessions, on Tax Return and Financial Statement Analysis. She is in the trenches with lenders, analysts and underwriters helping them say "yes" to good loans. Creator of the Tax Return Analysis Virtual Classroom at www.LendersOnlineTraining.com, she speaks at banking associations on risk management, lending and director finance topics.