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Whos teaching your kids about money?

(CNN) Debit cards, credit cards, saving and borrowing money – you probably learned a lot of what you know about personal finance from your own life experiences.

child moneyYou have the opportunity to teach your children about money and save them the anguish of learning about money and more importantly how to wisely manage their money.  I don’t know about you, but my parents never made an attempt to formally teach me about money.  The only advice I ever received when I was a kid was when I was asking for my parents to buy me something.  The lesson I received was a simple, “If you want that, save up your money”.  …great advice, but not very detailed.

I have to admit, I wish my parents had sat me down and talked to me about the importance and methods of keeping more of the money I earned and how to make good decisions when spending the little bit of money I had.  More importantly about the dangers of credit and the importance of being as debt free as possible.

It’s almost never too soon to start teaching your kids about money.  As soon as they are able to count you can start to introduce money into their everyday lives.  Here are a few simple ways to help teach your children about managing money, personal finance and being financial responsible.

Wants, needs and wishes.  Teach your kids about the differences between “needs” and “wants”.  …I still get in trouble with this one. “I really need that new part for my car” Good thing my wife remembers the difference between “need” and “want”.

  • Savings Goals.  This is where that wise idiom from my father comes into play “If you want it, save up your money and buy it” The key to my father’s lesson is “your”, “save up your money” not his money.  My parents always said I would appreciate something more if I paid for it myself, well when you’re 10, you appreciate it just fine if the money comes from grandpa. …I’m just sayin’   But when your kids ask you for that toy they just saw on TV, take the opportunity to teach them about saving and setting goals.  Show them how to save and set a goal, don’t just say “If you want it, save up your money and buy it”.
  • Spending decisions.  Good or poor, they will learn from their choices.  Of course discus with your kids spending pros and cons before they go out and spend their hard earned money.  Try to get them to use common sense when making purchases.  Talk to them about waiting for the right time to buy, price comparisons and the benefit of researching the item they are interested in.
  • Talk about advertising.  Have a discussion about the TV advertisement they just saw that prompted their desire.  Will it really do what is advertised?  Is it really a good deal?  Is there another product similar that cost less?  Make sure they understand that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Credit cards.  Talk about how credit cards and credit in general works.  If you make a purchase with your credit card explain to them why you used it (why did you?), the fees involved and how/when you plan on paying it back.
  • The family 401(k).  Start a family 401(k) for your kids.  Explain to them how your retirement account works and offer to do something similar to promote their savings.  Match every dollar that they put in their own family 401(k) savings plan.  Make them use a real bank account for the savings and show them the monthly statement so they see how their money is growing.  Put in place steep penalties for withdraw to help keep them on track for saving.

Remember, kids learn what they live.  You as a parent are your kid’s most influential teacher and if you have a big pile of stinky debt and bad credit, that is what your kids will see as normal.  If you are setting a financially irresponsible example you can’t expect your kids to do as you say, not as I do.

If you do have financial problems and are getting help and working towards being debt free and financially responsible, take that as an opportunity to show you kids how you can get in trouble with your finances if you are not disciplined with your savings and spending.

Break the cycle and do everything you can so your kids turn out to responsible stewards of their financial future.

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