This post from Doug Lebda is part of the reader stories series. Doug is a personal finance expert, father of three, founder and chairman of Lending Tree, the Lending Tree Foundation and co-founder of Tykoon. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how.
According to the “Teens and Personal Finance” survey conducted by Junior Achievement USA/All State Foundation, only 56 percent of teens believe that they will be financially well-off or better off than their parents. This represents a 37 percent drop from 2011 and a serious lack of money-management confidence among the youth population. Of teens surveyed, 86 percent indicated that their parents were their source for money-management education.
What can parents do to help make millennials more confident in their ability to manage finances?
My life mission has been to advocate for consumers and support financial literacy, but when it came time for me to teach my young daughters about these concepts, I realized that speaking to kids about money was drastically different from helping impart that education to adults. I tried everything from chore charts to visual reward cues like bags of money, but I just couldn’t capture their interest.
I eventually saw that in my children’s world, virtual engagement was the key to holding their attention and making something fun. I took the conversation online, mimicking the virtual gaming experience by tying their chores to online reward notifications via email and online chore charts and letting them track their balances online. Then we supported this with real-life family activities and tactics to reinforce their lessons they were learning and pass on the family values around money we wanted them to learn.
As we started taking an inventory of their personal earning, saving, giving, and spending, money management started becoming fun. Slowly my daughters began to take ownership of their money decisions. They were excited to earn, proud to save, happy to give, and appreciative when they spent.
Here are five tips I’ve compiled to help other parents get their kids thinking about money by melding online and real-world tactics:
- Make learning virtual and fun. In an annual survey by T. Rowe Price, 85 percent of kids say that an online game would be helpful for them to learn more about the basics of money. With today’s digitally savvy kids, it’s important to meet kids where they are already–online. That said, it is also crucial to create fun earning activities in real life on top of everyday chores to make earning fun. Spend a summer day with your kids creating a lemonade stand make it into a game. Dedicate a rainy afternoon to arts and crafts for sale at your next community fundraiser. Bake cookies together for a bake sale. Let your creativity run free!
- Change “I want!” to “How do I earn?” Parenting is tough, and it gets much tougher when kids don’t get what they want. Instead of saying “no” or “yes” during the next demand-driven fit, try diverting your child to think about what they can do to earn the things they want. Then explain how they can do this by helping out around the house so they start developing a strong work ethic. It’s helpful to track balances online so kids can get a sense of their progress and stay motivated.
- See like a bird but save like a squirrel. Encourage kids to take a bird’s-eye view of the money they have coming in like allowance, rewards for tasks accomplished or birthday gifts. Parents and kids can determine the portions of income they will automatically put towards saving, giving and spending. This helps your kids develop healthy patterns and plans around money that they can carry with them as they get older. Again, tracking balances online can help kids have tangible reminders of their goals and overall financial situation.
- Be consistent about expectations and rewards. Make sure your kids know what they’re expected to do before they get their allowance. Be consistent in rewarding a job well done as well as withholding rewards if they don’t fulfill their responsibilities. Online task management tools or chore charts can be especially helpful for both parents and kids to track completed tasks and be held accountable to their commitments.
- It takes a village, so get it involved. Inform extended family and friends about your mission and get them involved! Work together to teach and encourage your kids to save and get rewarded for achieving milestones. Consider having family match their savings for birthdays or treat kids to non-cash rewards like a special family outing for good financial planning.
I know that the money conversation can be a tough one, but throughout my years at Lending Tree I have seen how absolutely crucial understanding the basics of money management is to long-term financial health. By instilling money smarts in our kids today, we are setting the foundation for generations of money-smart families to come.