5 Ways to Help Your Kids With Their Finances

This is a post by David Bakke, father of a young son, and contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, a blog focused on sharing tips on money management, investing, retirement, and more.


Finance (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

My parents did their best to make sure that I knew the value of a dollar and how to spend my money wisely. Although I largely ignored their advice in my youth, later in life I adopted nearly every piece of financial advice they ever gave me. My parents provided me with a foundation for personal finances that I still use today.

There are a number of ways that you can instill a good set of financial values in your children:

1. Lead by Example

Lead by example when you teach your children about finances. Your kids may not listen to your advice if you have extensive personal debt and live paycheck-to-paycheck. In addition, your children will learn your bad money habits and may even emulate them as they become adults. I have known many people who struggle financially whose parents were faced with debts, bankruptcies, and foreclosure.

Actively working to improve your budgeting and spending skills can help your children with their finances. Use your experiences as life lessons: Explain the mistakes that you made in the past and how you plan to correct your financial problems. Furthermore, involve your children in your home budgeting and personal finances.

2. Get Involved

When I received my first credit card, I called my parents. They offered me some cursory advice on how to handle the card, but I didn’t listen. They didn’t ask me about my financial situation again until after I graduated from college, and by then I had thousands of dollars of credit card debt.

If you want to help your kids with their finances, get involved. Show your kids a credit card statement long before they can apply for one, highlighting the terms, conditions, and the interest rates and fees for using the card. Encourage your children to talk to you about finding the best cash back credit cards and how to use them responsibly before they apply.

When kids receive their first credit card statement, help explain it to them to reinforce previous credit card lessons. And gently inquire about their finances from time to time – you don’t want to invade their privacy, but you also don’t want their finances to go unchecked.

3. Be Positive, Don’t Criticize

If your children begin to accumulate debt, make late payments on credit cards, or apply for high interest credit cards, don’t criticize. Instead, explain the potential results of their actions in a positive way.

I tuned out my parents when they criticized my behavior. Don’t make this mistake with your children. Offer solutions rather than chiding them for their mistakes. You may have made some of the same mistakes, so you can offer them relevant, helpful advice.

4. Plan for the Future

Help your children with their finances by teaching them how to save for the future. Your child will likely want a car when he or she turns 17, so begin talking about buying a car when your child turns 14. How will your child pay for a car, car insurance, and maintenance for the vehicle? Share your auto insurance bills with your kids, and explain that insurance prices vary based on the type of car purchased.

When your child turns 16, begin to seriously discuss college and related expenses. How will tuition, textbooks, and other school-related expenses be paid for? Perhaps your child needs a college savings plan or a part-time job.

Reinforce the idea that financial success means planning for the future, in addition to paying bills. If your kids have jobs, make sure they contribute to a 401k plan. If they already contribute to a retirement plan, suggest other savings options. A Roth or a traditional IRA can help kids save for the future.

5. Teach the Difference Between Wants and Needs

Distinguishing between needs and wants can help your children achieve financial success. If your children can’t make this distinction, give them real-life examples.

Instead of buying things they want, like concert tickets or new clothes, encourage them to save their money for things they need, like a car. If you have viable public transportation in your area, encourage them to forgo a car and to save for college instead.

When it comes to financing new purchases, teach them the golden rule of credit cards: If you can’t afford to pay something off by the end of the month, then you can’t afford to buy the item.

Special Advice for Parents of Recent College Graduates

Recent college graduates will experience a number of important changes in a short amount of time. They will enter the workforce and may begin receiving their first full-time paychecks.

Make sure your recent graduates know how to use the new source of income to budget and save money. They will likely also graduate with a substantial amount of debt. Make sure they understand the importance of paying off this debt in a timely fashion without missing scheduled payments.

Final Thoughts

Parenting strategies should include helping kids with their finances. When you get involved and become a financial mentor, you help your children learn lessons about money they won’t soon forget. You can have peace of mind knowing that your children can manage their finances on their own, now and in the years to come.

How else do you help your kids with their finances? What additional tips would you offer?

This was a post by David Bakke, father of a young son, and contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, a blog focused on sharing tips on money management, investing, retirement, and more.

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  1. says

    Good pointers. Here is a recommendation when the kids are young and eating at fast food place. Offer them $1 if they choose tap water rather than fountain drink. Explain that if they take the $1 each time it will build up and they can use it to buy something they like.
    Most families eat out quite a bit and pay $1.70 – $2.00 for soft drinks! Put the extra $.70 in a college account. Note: the overall bill is less because of taxes.

  2. says

    I think the best advice is that last point “Teach the Difference Between Wants and Needs”. When I was a kid, I didn’t know that was happening, but it probably is the single most important lesson I ever learned – it’s the one that separates me from other people my age that are having money problems because “they needed to buy beer (cigarettes, shoes, brand new cars, have their nails done, etc)”.

  3. says

    I love Money Crashers! I think these are all important, particularly differentiating between wants and needs, and leading by example.

  4. says

    Children learn much more from what they see than what you tell them. My own children who are adults confirmed that for me. Be a good role model.

  5. says

    @ DIY Investor: Totally agree on the drinks idea…I almost always go with tap water or try to bring my own liquids. Just as with alcohol, many restaurants make their big money on non-alcoholic drinks as well.

    @ Crystal: Wants and needs are huge…need to just spend a few minutes thinking through that question before each purchase.

    @ Daisy, Thanks for the kind words!

    @ Krantcents: Role models are definitely important and that is shown time and time again…that can make such a big difference!

  6. says

    one fellow parent shared an idea that she does. everytime her child wants a new toy, she makes her son donate an existing toy. this teaches the child to understand life is about tradeoffs, what does he value more. i thought it was a simple way to teach a child a great lession.

  7. says

    I have two daughters attending college, so these tips really helps. I agree that when kids make mistake, it’s better to teach them what not to do next time than to scold them for their mistakes.

  8. says

    Great tips. When I was a child, my parents never discussed financial management to us. We were given our allowances but we were never thought how to properly manage our finances. This may be one of the the reasons why we experienced bankruptcy, which of course we don’t want our kids to go through. As early as now, we are teaching them financial management. Simple things like wants vs. needs, saving their allowances, saving for their “wants”, etc.

  9. says

    My kids are pretty young still, so we’re working on allowances and buying things only when you have enough money saved up. But these are good tips and I’ll have a lot to work on as they get older.

  10. says

    I often wonder about where we should draw the line as far as being transparent with our children. We want to guide and educate them, but don’t want them to know any details of OUR personal finances.

  11. says

    The best advice I ever got was to start early. Whether it was investing for retirement or saving for college. Time has a way of building patience and success in what ever you want to do.


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