Happy New Year! If you’re like me, you probably feel compelled to make a New Year’s resolution this year for any of the following reasons:
- you did it every year so you have to do it again this year
- everyone keeps asking “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” so you have to do one to give an answer
- everyone else is making one
- it is something high performing people do
But just like every year that has passed, you probably already know you won’t keep the resolution for the whole year for the following reasons:
- too hard.
- not fun.
- too ambitious.
A different New Year’s resolution
If I asked you to make a resolution to teach your children financial literacy, you’re likely to laugh and say “Yea right!” But I think deep down, you know it’s something that has to be taught. Except not by you.
Maybe it’s because it sounds too hard. How exactly do we teach our children financial literacy? What books do we read and what guides can we use? None. Maybe it’s because we don’t know what ‘financial literacy’ actually means. We know it means being good with money, but how do we work out when we are ‘being good’ with money? More likely, the reason we laugh is that it doesn’t sound exciting enough to announce it to everyone. Unlike making a New Year’s resolution to ‘lose 10kg in two months’ or ‘eating healthy for one month’ or ‘exercise more’ most of us go glossy-eyed when we read the words ‘finance’ and ‘literacy’. It’s also not something we can measure. I mean, how are we to know our children’s financial literacy has improved?
So rather than ask you to make a New Year’s resolution to teach your children financial literacy, let me put these questions to you. Would you take the challenge if:
- it only involves a maximum of 15 minutes each time you perform the task?
- it involves playing games?
- there is a guaranteed success?
- it will benefit your kids?
If you said ‘Yes’ to all of the above four questions, then read on. But if you’re cynical in answering or said ‘No’ to any of the above, there is no need to read further. You’re not likely to take this challenge and even if you do, you’re not likely to continue anyway.
So what is this challenge?
Have a Money Conversation With Your Kids
I challenge you to have one money conversation with your kids each month. I don’t want you to lecture your children about money, I just want you to talk to them about anything money-related. Here’s the catch – the talk can only be for 15 minutes max. It can be anything you want to talk about, as long as the concept of money is in that conversation. Sounds easy enough? It sure is.
Once you get into the habit of talking about money with your children, it will be as natural as asking your kids how was their day at school. Children in primary school are very open to any topic of conversation. To me, the primary school age are the most delightful years to talk to children – their innocence and willingness to learn new things make it so rewarding to talk to them about anything.
So if you are willing to take the challenge and achieve your New Year’s resolution this year, I want to help you. Why? Because every child who increases his or her financial literacy is another child that will have a brighter future. There is enough sadness, anger and problems around the world that don’t involve money. Let’s not make money another source of these problems.
So how do you have money conversations with your children?
Look for teachable moments
As part of achieving your New Year’s resolution, look for teachable moments every day in everything that you do. Teachable moments are simply transactions, actions and events that we undertake and come across every day that lends itself to lessons. When it comes to money, everything that we do every day involves money. If we open our minds to it, we can find teachable moments involving money every day.
It doesn’t have to be teachable moments that the children are engaged in – it can even be your own teachable moments. It can be a wise decision you’ve made with money or even unwise decisions you’ve made with money. In fact, kids love it when they see mum and dad make unwise decisions – it reaffirms to them that it’s okay for them to make unwise decisions too. Perhaps it’s the cup of coffee you’ve bought. By all means, enjoy your cup of coffee, but then talk to the children about the money side of the cup of coffee. You could talk about where you earned the money to buy coffee. You could talk about how much the cup of coffee costs. Perhaps even how much it would have cost you if you made that cup of coffee at home.
Money games for kids
If you’re really stuck for a conversation topic, why not play some money games? You can read our review of the more common money board games. PayDay is a favourite for the whole family, including my six-year-old. Game of L ife is fast becoming a favourite money game that we play with our older children. I have just ordered Cashflow for Kids and I can’t wait to get stuck into playing it with the kids soon.
Playing pretend shop is also a favourite for younger children. You can take it up a notch and ask your children to hold an art gallery to display their artwork for sale. The time it takes for them to create their art will occupy them for hours. When it’s done, you get to go to an art gallery. The children won’t mind what you pay them – as long as they get money for their scribbles, they are happy with any denomination. If your older children want to participate, you can make it more interesting by asking them to convince you why you should buy their artwork over their younger siblings’ art.
Money booksBooks are another fantastic resource to communicate with children about money. If you are stuck for suggestions on which books to read, here is a review of some of the more popular money books for kids. Our family favourite is Dr Seuss’ One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent.
I love reading, but being a busy mum means I am often exhausted by the bedtime. So bedtime reading to the children is often seen as a necessity rather than pleasure for me. So rather than have bedtime stories, my children have ‘breakfast stories’. This is when I read to them while they eat their breakfast. This has several advantages:
- They are fresh from a good night’s sleep, so they are able to absorb the messages more readily;
- They eat their breakfast rather than talk to each other (which often means they finish their breakfasts early to get ready for school)
- I get to re-visit the message in the evening if there is the opportunity to do so.
- I ask the older children to read the same story to the younger children at bedtime.
It’s all well and good to issue you a challenge and then show you how to complete the challenge. But what about the ‘guaranteed success’ part? Anytime we talk to our children about money is an improvement to their financial literacy. Regardless of the nature of the topic and no matter how long or short the conversation, every time we talk to the children about money is an improvement in their knowledge. So even if you only remember to have one conversation the entire 12 months, your one conversation has already improved your child’s financial literacy.
New Year’s resolution: improve my children’s financial literacy
Make this one resolution you will keep. Unlike the other resolutions in the past, this one has a guaranteed succcess and can actually be fun! It will also benefit your children.