Financial literacy is a life skill best learned at an early age

How can we do better in teaching financial literacy to children? It doesn’t help that with quarters and dollars being swapped for credit cards and electronic banking, kids are finding the whole concept of money more difficult to grasp.

The non-profit Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, CFEE, which promotes financial literacy among young people asked a sample of kids in Grades 7 through 12 (ages 12 to 17) what they wanted to know about money, and who they wanted to learn from.

Just over 60 per cent said they preferred learning from parents or guardians. Teachers were next at almost 54 per cent, followed by guest experts at school. Tech-based solutions like apps, interactive games and online sources were less popular.

The survey showed a preference to learn the best ways to prepare for earning money and getting a good job. Parents and teachers would do well to help youngsters make good spending decisions and learn ways to save when working.

bored

Preaching about debt, saving and compound interest were not considered particularly useful for young people.

A summer or part-time job is an excellent platform to begin discussions around saving for short and long-term goals.

Another thought is to invite teens to ask you any money questions they have. Your own successes and mistakes with money can be highly informative.

Parents are unbiased and independent in that they don’t sell financial products. They are also familiar and physically present.

Being the parent of teenagers means you’re bound to have moments when you don't seem to be communicating. Money might just be the topic that brings you together.

For younger children here are a few suggestions for helping them get an understanding of money

Make it natural

Talk to your nine-year-old about why you’re using a credit card and how you’ll need to pay off the balance before the due date to avoid paying an extra fee (called interest). Or let your six-year-old know that the cash you’re withdrawing at the ATM doesn’t appear by magic. You work for that money and it’s deposited into the bank.

Make it fun

shop

Three and four-year-olds are not too young to start developing financial literacy. They love to play so why not drag out canned goods, produce and cereal boxes from the kitchen and build a pretend store in the living room. Grab some coins and cut up paper to make bills. Then get shopping.

Be a role model for financial literacy

Your kids are always watching what you do, so be sure to model the behaviour you want to see in them too. When you put an item of clothing back on the rack you can tell them you don’t have the money for that right now and you are going to watch to see if it goes on sale.

And grandparents, naturally it's great to buy things for grandkids. Maybe a little horse sense now and then wouldn’t go amiss. Tell them how you saved for half a year to buy a used bike or read 'The Richest Man in Babylon' to them - find it in reading suggestions.

This article Spending Habits describes 'Money Habitudes' - a card game to help uncover the emotional relationship people have with money. It's fun to play and often gives surprising results. There's a link in there to the company that sells them.

Too many people have complicated, negative and even destructive attitudes towards spending. Nurturing financial literacy at a young age takes the mystery and emotion out of relationships with money and gives a fighting chance to develop a healthy and successful financial future.

Articles A to Z

Subject Index

Home Page