Even though the new year is well underway, still it affords great opportunities to teach your children about smart money management, whatever their age. In view of the current economic conditions, those opportunities abound. So much of wise, thoughtful fathering is a matter of seeing and seizing the teachable moments that become available throughout the swift journey that is the 18-20 years you'll share together as they're growing up. During the child-rearing years, dads have limited opportunities to impart the many things kids need to know in order to grow up and become responsible, well-adjusted, stable adults. Careful, thoughtful money management should be near the top of the list.
It seems few things, outside our person, define and bespeak our attitudes, priorities, and character so clearly and profoundly as how we handle the money that flows to our hands. While dads may be eying budget-tightening tactics in this new year, some of which the kids may notice, they can also help their progeny understand what the coming changes mean, or require of them for the short term, and the longer range financial health and stability of the whole family. Dads do their kids a great service by making them privy to the household finances.
As with many things in child-rearing, it's best to remember two things, 1) teaching your kids about handling money will itself be a journey, and that being the case you'll do well to 2) begin with the desired end result in mind. Also a good maxim for teaching your kids sound money management (or any skill that you want them to "master") is the sooner you start to convey to them the basic principles, and reinforce them, the better. Recognizing that everyone reading this may not have the luxury (of time) to teach their children over the next 'n' years, a list of suggested books to help reach various ages follows. Suffice to say that if you have very young children, e.g. pre-schoolers, who understand what money is and what it can get, you'll want to begin with exercises in delayed gratification. It's a good idea to require them to save some of the quarters, dimes, and nickels they get from aunts, uncles, and grands-even at birthday time. It's also a good idea that this saving has a dual focus: some put aside for something they'd like to have one day, and some saved for a "rainy day." You may want to think through ahead of time how that's defined.
For dads needing a crash course (perhaps for themselves and) for helping their children grasp the importance and value of smart money management, there's plenty help. You can begin searching your favorite bookstore or book-buying website for personal finance or finance for children, where you may find helpful tools like these:
- Money Doesn't Grow On Trees: A Parent's Guide To Raising Financially Responsible Children by Neale Godfrey, Caroline Edwards, and Tad Richards
- Money Matters for Teens A workbook for ages 11-14 by Larry Burkett with Todd Temple
- Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson
- The Wall Street Journal Guide To Understanding Money & Investing by Kenneth M. Morris and Virginia B. Morris
- Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need To Know And How To Tell Them by Janet Bodnar; Kiplinger Personal Finance
Whatever your approach, as much as possible, allow opportunities for your children to practice and learn from positive and negative experiences handling money--share your own stories. Together, these help provide important lessons before they step out on their own.