Believe it or not, the seeds of healthy saving and spending habits are planted at a young age. And, a family budget that involves your kids in important financial decisions is a great way to instill the value of money and the concept of careful, considered investing. So, forget about the birds and the bees, here’s a fun, creative way to talk to your kids about money.
Set Fun Financial Goals
For grownups, financial goals can be boring (hint: your kids aren’t interested in how you’re planning to save for retirement), but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun for your kids. Gather with your entire family and set goals to save up for something special. The goals could be grand like installing a swimming pool or taking an elaborate family vacation, or they may be more modest and individually meaningful, like saving up for a new video game, a phone, or even a used car. Whatever the goal, make sure it’s something you and your kids can follow to the finish line.
Make Meaningful Contributions
Once your family’s financial goals are set, stay invested by making (and frequently consulting) a family budget. Set aside a few minutes of family time to build a simple spreadsheet together, or use existing budgeting software. Involve the entire family and decide how much you can afford to put toward the purchase each month and how each individual (kids included) can contribute. When your kids’ money is at stake and when the end goal is meaningful, your kids are more likely to stay committed to the budget process and internalize the important concepts.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Meet often, perhaps weekly or monthly depending on the length of your family’s financial goals, to go over your family’s budget and follow up with your kids about their commitments and contributions. If your kids’ goals are more the individual variety, consider incentivizing them with matching parental contributions up to a certain amount each month. You could even set up a separate and dedicated bank account to let your kids know that you mean business. No matter your particular plan, meeting often reinforces the concepts and keeps the eyes of each family member on the prize.
When you’ve finally reached your investment milestones, celebrate the occasion with as much pomp and circumstance as you can muster. In other words, make sure your kids feel rewarded with your love, approval, affection, and praise, even more so than the actual reward itself. Unveil the plane tickets to a far off family destination in a fun and imaginative way. Or, surprise your kids with an impromptu outing to the phone or video game store. The point is that your family accomplished something meaningful together, and celebrating it in a special way only serves to reinforce the behavior.
A family budget doesn’t have to be boring, and teaching your kids important concepts about money doesn’t have to be a burden. Make the process meaningful, creative, and fun, and before you know it, your kids will understand the value of saving for college, their future, and other (in their minds) far-off and less-important stuff. Who knows? They may even start to take interest in your retirement savings, but don’t push your luck.
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