As any parent of a school-aged child can attest to, one topic that is conspicuously absent from most school curriculums is personal finance. Despite the fact that understanding one’s financial responsibilities is a basic life skill, for some reason, it is not only a topic that is rarely covered in the classroom, but it is one that is barely discussed at all until adulthood, by which time it is often too late to instill smart habits for money management without the added stress of having to apply these lessons in real time to real bills that are mounting by the day.
I am a strong proponent of the belief that we should start to educate our children about finances as early as possible, thereby demystifying the world of money management and imparting valuable advice that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. All too often, though, the process of getting the ball rolling on a financial education is so daunting that parents don’t know where to start. When we talk about a financial education and developing financial literacy, then, it helps to break the topic down into 4 areas of knowledge:
- How a person makes money
- How to manage the money you’ve made
- How to invest your money to turn it into even more money, and
- How to donate your money.
Each of these topics opens a dialogue about much broader issues that children should be exposed to early on. For example, if you’re teaching your child how a person makes money, you can introduce her to the topic of work salaries and how her paychecks will be taxed before she receives them. When it comes to imparting wisdom about how to manage the money you’ve made, you can use this opportunity to teach your child about the importance of saving, how to financially plan ahead for her future and why and how to avoid the trap of falling into credit card debt. And while investing is often considered to be the purview of the rich, this is not only misguided, but also causes millions of people to lose out on potential income every year. We can correct this perception by teaching our children about investing in the form of a game, which will both demystify the process of investing and make it an appealing prospect to children from all socio-economic stratas. Finally, with financial education, we have the power to raise future generations who will view donating to charity not as a luxury, but as a mandatory component of money management, thereby creating a world in which charities and nonprofits have a much larger pool of funds to pull from to do good.
The fact of the matter is, only time will tell if these important lessons are incorporated into school curriculums. Until that day comes, it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children about finance in the home if we want to re-shape the way we as a society understand how to manage our money and put a stop to the financial ignorance that is causing so much of the world’s economic problems today.