We’ll let you count the number of ways there are to teach your kids about money. A lot, it turns out – books, videos, podcasts, debit cards, school programs, and even pay to play.
Beyond an Allowance
Our society has gone far beyond simply giving children an allowance and telling them to make it last for the week. Financial education for the young can wear many faces, too. Most experts agree that having a grasp of money, saving, and spending is a foundation to be followed by more advanced skills. “By the time your child reaches high school, they should have a checking account (jointly with you) with a debit card and set up direct deposit for paychecks they earn from a job,” says Robert Farrington, who started the website The College Investor.
When to Begin
Perhaps somewhat surprising for new parents anyway is widespread agreement among professionals about the appropriate age to start working with children. “Even toddlers can understand the concept of a budget,” says Moana Whipple, a financial associate with Natural Bridges Financial Advisors. Whipple and her partner started teaching their three-year-old about budgeting by giving her a YouTube video allowance, using a whiteboard to illustrate. Each time she watched a video, they marked off a box on the whiteboard.
Similarly, author Rosanna Guardavaccaro of Barnum Financial Group says, “The earlier the better. Children can understand financial concepts even earlier than age one through color, diagrams, and a story line. All these features can allow a child to absorb the material. My first book Peter Saves for a Rainy Day was created so it could be read to a child even younger than one years old. The pictures, colors, and story give children the ability to follow along.”
Learning to Invest
For some parents a major step in financial education for their youngster is learning to invest. In a recent Bankrate article Miranda Marquit says, “One of the best ways to build wealth over time is to invest – and starting at a young age can improve success down the road. However, even though 49 percent of children have a savings account, only 6 percent have an investment account, according to a 2020 survey from T. Rowe Price. If you want to set your child up for future success, helping them learn about investing can be a good step forward. Even if you don’t know much about the subject, you can still teach kids the basics of investing, and maybe even learn a little along the way.”
Podcasts are not something often associated with young listeners, but Million Bazillion, a finance podcast for kids, charted number one on Apple Podcasts in the Kids and Family section and number 88 in all podcasts, according a spokesperson for the Marketplace-sponsored show, adding that Podcasts are “the perfect medium for road trips and quiet time.”
Financial Literacy in Schools
With so many avenues to promote learning about finance, it may be easy to overlook the schools, but many are involved at one level or another. One positive is that kids are in the schoolroom where they can raise their hands, ask questions, and discuss things amongst themselves. For many, it could be their last chance to get a handle on budgeting, saving, credit, and living within their means before moving onto college or their career. However, these programs are in the hands of the states, and there can be wide disparity between what’s available. In its 2021 State of Financial Education Report, Next Gen Personal Finance found that 20.6% of U.S. high school students were in a school where all students were guaranteed a semester-long course solely dedicated to personal finance – what Next Gen calls the Gold Standard. Only five states had that standard, with two more transitioning to it. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t financial education in other states.
Faye Griffiths-Smith, president of Connecticut JumpStart, a coalition of organizations with a strong interest in financial literacy for youth, notes that there are various subjects in the schools, such as math and economics, that can contribute to financial education. JumpStart is also committed to helping teachers develop skills to become teachers of financial education, Ms. Griffiths-Smith says.
The growth of the financial education field also has drawn attention from the private sector. A group called the National Financial Educators Council offers to train people to provide financial education to various groups, complete with materials. Prices for various levels of training and number of individuals are listed on the organization’s website.
As American society grows ever more financially complex, there very likely will be increasing attention paid to preparing young people to face the outside world. Like so many aspects of our economy, there will not be one uniform way to proceed. It will be up to parents and young people to decide the best way for them.