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My Money, My Choices

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.

Being a positive financial role model: Five money lessons to teach your children

If you want your children to be smart about money, then you have to take the time to teach them.

Entrepreneurs are born from the desire to make things happen. Encourage your kids to set up a lemonade stand, wash cars, walk dogs — even hold a garage sale.

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Entrepreneurs are born from the desire to make things happen. Encourage your kids to set up a lemonade stand, wash cars, walk dogs — even hold a garage sale.

I believe that money lessons begin at home.

If you want your children to be smart (smarter than you) about money, then you have to take the time to teach them. Don’t leave this important lesson up to someone else.

Don’t feel you’re smart enough? You are. Most people know enough about the basics of money to help guide their children. And if you’re really not, isn’t it time you got smarter about how you handle your money so you can be a role model for your kids?

Here are some things you can be talking about with your 4- to 10-year-olds, if you want them to be self-assured and put money in the right perspective:

1. Money is an exhaustible resource. When you use it, it’s gone. Make smart choices about how you use it. That means realizing that when you spend your Twoonie on a popsicle, you forgo the can of pop or bag of chips. In the store, let your kid complete the transaction: the money goes away and they get the treat.

2. Save something. There’s no lesson that will teach this better than the lesson of habit. You make your kids brush their teeth, right? Make them save too. Saving 10 per cent is enough. It’s a hard habit to break and one from which they’ll reap huge benefits.

3. More money doesn’t make you a better person. Some adults would do well to learn this lesson. The amount of money you have has nothing to do with the content of your character. The kinds of shoes you wear, the brand on your clothes, the type of car your parents drive, the size of your house all have nothing to do with how smart, sensible, kind or fair you are. Equating our “stuff” with our self-worth is an illness. Inoculate your kids against this virus.

4. If you want more money, get creative. Entrepreneurs are born from the desire to be in control and make things happen. Encourage your kids to set up lemonade stands, wash cars, walk dogs, deliver papers, fetch groceries, weed gardens, shovel snow. Don’t insist they save half. (Do you save half?) Apply the normal savings rules.

5. Make wise choices. This requires that you give them some money: that’s called an allowance. It’s not free money. It’s the money you normally spend on them, put in their hands so they can learn how to make wise choices. Over time they’ll learn that if they blow their money on junk then they won’t have it when they really want it.

What kind of example are you setting — what lessons are you teaching — as you go about your day-to-day life? If you’re not even thinking about it, know that your children are still learning from you.

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