Our oldest son was obsessed with getting a Nintendo Switch a few years back. He started watching videos of some guy playing his Nintendo Switch on his Kindle Fire. All we heard about are games such as Mario Odyssey. This was the first time he’d been passionate about purchasing something, so we used it as an opportunity to teach him about money. Teaching money to a then five-year-old isn’t easy, though this post goes over the strategy we are using to hopefully have money lessons sink in with our young children.
Our children will likely grow up much better off than my wife or me when we were younger. However, with all the positives that come with their situation, there are some negatives, such as a lack of appreciation and entitlement. I want to give my kids a great life, but I don’t want to spoil them. That’s why we’re trying to get an early start teaching financial literacy in our house. The following are a few examples of how we’re teaching our kids about money.
How We’re Teaching our Kids about Spending, Investing, and Giving
Our kids, now eight and four, receive an allowance of $5 per week to complete their chores. Their chores include making their bed, feeding the cats, and cleaning their room. Every day they don’t complete a chore, they are supposed to lose one dollar.
We aren’t as hard-nosed with this approach as it sounds. Many days, we look the other way if their room isn’t perfect. On other days, we ask them to feed the cats, and if they refuse, we take a dollar away. The point isn’t to strictly enforce the process at this point. It’s more to help them connect between doing work and making money.
At the end of the week, they puts $3 in the spending jar, $1 in the investing pot, and $1 in the giving jar. The jars are made of clear plastic to see the money adding up. Having a tangible goal is vital for young children, especially a goal they are excited about.
How We’re Teaching Stock Investing
Before our oldest had an expensive Nintendo Switch savings goal, his birthday and Christmas money would add up to a relatively significant sum of money. So every year, we have purchased a share of stock or two.
We purchased two individual stocks via the Robinhood app with his savings. This wasn’t his decision, but he didn’t push back against the decision. Honestly, I’m not sure he knew exactly what we were talking about. The Robinhood app was surprisingly easy to set up and purchase individual stocks. There are no fees to use the Robinhood app either.
I don’t think he is ready to grasp the concept of stocks fully. However, I sometimes comment, “you are a part-owner of Under Armor.” Hopefully, these comments will make more sense, allowing him to connect everyday products and the stock market.
Even though he hasn’t shown much interest in the stocks, he will ask to “see the numbers” occasionally. He currently has about $800 in his stock “portfolio.”
We will use his money from the investing jar to purchase additional individual stocks. We may even roll the dice with the small-cap or penny stocks since we’ll likely be throwing less than $50 at new stocks. While I am more of an index fund investor, getting him excited about investing in VTSAX (Vanguard’s total stock market index fund) would be more challenging. As he shows interest in products or services, I will ask him if he’d like to be a part-owner in X company. Again, I don’t expect him to fully make the connection at his age, but hopefully, it makes sense in time.
How We’re Teaching Generosity
When our oldest was three years old, we were at our Aunt’s house and had completed an Easter egg hunt earlier in the day. Our son ended up with six or seven quarters he planned to bring home for his jars. But instead, he donated his shiny new quarters to a better cause.
Our Aunt went on mission trips to Uganda every few years and showed him a small piggy bank.
She explained that the money would buy food for hungry children in Uganda. I was so proud as we watched him put his quarters in the piggy bank without being asked. He wanted to give his money so the children had food to eat.
I had recently paid my oldest to help haul some trash out to the dumpster. I explained that he could sometimes make extra money by helping out with side jobs. He’s been excited by this and occasionally asks to help around the house. For example, his younger sister helped him pick up toys the other day. Without saying anything to him, he took a dollar out of his spending jar and gave it to his sister to help him. It was an incredible moment.
I’m unsure if his actions resulted from some of the things we’ve been teaching him. However, it is a positive sign that he’s starting to grasp some of these concepts, even at a young age. We will continue to do our best, so our kids grow to be generous and give back to those less fortunate.
How Are You Teaching Kids about Money?
I’m hoping that we can ensure our children are financially literate when they grow up by being intentional. We still have a long way to go in this parenting thing, and every stage has had challenges. I know it gets more complex once they begin approaching the teenage years. Regardless, all we can do as parents is our best, and we hope to raise money-smart kids who aren’t spoiled little brats!
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.
I loved reading this! I especially enjoyed your anecdote on giving. It is amazing how much they learn from us, isn’t it? Congratulations on already raising a financially wise child who has empathy and compassion. Congratulations on the new baby by the way. How is your toddler adjusting to having a sibling?
I forgot to mention, that I also enjoyed reading about applying your son’s savings to the purchase of stocks as an opportunity to learn about investing. We haven’t been doing that with gifted money with our 2 year old, but have actually opened up a 529 college savings account and use overflow money such as that from birthdays to put towards college savings. My husband and I save with a Coverdell ESA for her and max it out every year since the month she was born, but overflow from gifted money has been going into a 529 plan, and hopefully in another year we can do as you have and start explaining her “investments” to her! You are most definitely leaving behind a legacy already with your child and it is just the coolest thing.
You know, I completely forgot to mention that we also have a 529 account for our 3 year old. We don’t even talk about that account since the money comes right out of my check into that account. Sounds like another opportunity to talk to him about money!
Big brother is adjusting well to his new little sister, who joined us last month. I was worried about him being jealous of missing some attention. So far he’s a mix of loving and completely disinterested. Usually more of the latter.
It sounds like you are doing a great job as well. Keep up the good work!
First, thank you for the mention. I am so pleased you took something away from my post. That is quite meaningful to me.
Second, I am amazed by your awesome setup with your son! Everything you are doing sounds great and I’m amazed – again – by how well he appears to be absorbing it. I think those are some fantastic ideas I can share with my nieces.
Wonderful stories! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Thanks! He’s a pretty good kid, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that he ends up a productive member of society. 😀
Great lessons! These early lessons will last a lifetime. My three children are now aged 19,19, and 16. We got a little later start with them teaching them about money, they were 11,11, and 8 when we first started. We involved them in our budget discussion, included what we made, monthly bills, etc. I found it was easiest to talk money with them when I incorporated a topic they were interested in. Ice cream and smart phones were good ones. Asking them if they want to grow up to be millionaires is a good conversation started too. 🙂 Continued success teaching your little one!
These are great tips. I’m making mental notes for when my little ones are older. Teaching kids about money is so important!
Taking notes for our 2.5 year old in a few years… 🙂
Best of luck! Thanks for reading.
Mr. RIP says
A similar approach I’ve seen on the simple dollar (https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/10/16/5-steps-to-teach-kids-about-spending-vs-saving) where the buckets were 4: saving, giving, spending and investing. In that way you teach kids about investing too 🙂
I’ll check that out. We are going to use his saving jar as his investment bucket as well. The idea of separating the two is interesting though!
This is awesome! Such an easy concept and sounds simple enough to do with any young child. Kudos to your kid for giving the money away… that had to be fun to see.
Thanks! We were surprised by his generosity as well. He is pretty good with sharing but I don’t recall him ever going out of the way to give. Hopefully he keeps it up as he grows up!
Little Miss Fire says
WOW I really admire youi for teaching your child about money so early. I havent started to teach my 5 year old and I worry I have waited too long as she’s in the give me give me stage!
Little Miss Fire
No way, you have plenty of time! Most people never learn about money at all so whenever you decide to get started is going to put her ahead of most people.
Simple Measures at Home says
Thanks for this. I have a three year old and two year old, I had assumed they were too young to start learning about money, but now I am going to start. The jar idea is a great starting point, I also love that your son has stocks! If my kids ever ask to look at numbers on my phone I will be so thrilled…
The jars are a great visual for young children. He seems to really be grasping the idea. I don’t think he at all understands stocks yet, though it doesn’t start to being introducing the concept.
If you start introducing any of these concepts with your kids please let me know how it goes!!
We have a five year old and started giving him an allowance on his fourth birthday. We don’t tie it to chores (because I never want him able to say “I don’t need money this week, so I’m not doing my chores.”) however he is expected to do chores as a productive member of the family.
The allowance we give him is half his age in quarters so he got 8 quarters last year and gets 10 quarters this year. He has a piggy bank with four slots: save, spend, donate, invest. He is required to put one quarter in each slot and put one in the donation plate at church. He can choose what to do with the rest of them. Typically he tends to put a second one in each slot to keep things even and that last one goes in wherever he feels like it that week. He can also earn extra money by doing one-off chores.
With his donate money we have purchased the premade bags of food at the grocery store for Second Harvest. Whenever his save money gets up to $10 we add 10% interest (for a total of $11) and it goes into his savings account at our credit union. His spend money gets spent regularly on toys. And his invest money continues to grow and grow. Although I do change it from quarters to bills semi-regularly so that I have more quarters for allowance time and we can fit more in. I’m hoping around Halloween I can tie in pieces from Montana Money Adventures lesson on the stock market (https://www.montanamoneyadventures.com/raising-wealthy-kids-stocks-index-funds-and-halloween-candy/) and we can actually start him with a portfolio.
Wow! I appear to have written a really long comment, but I love to see what others are doing as we stumble through this process…
Thanks so much for this thoughtful post. You are doing great! I definitely didn’t come up with these ideas on my own, but it’s great to see how my little one is already kind of getting some of the concepts. Still a long way to go!
Chris Roane says
I know this post is from last year, but I really enjoyed it.
I want to do a better job in teaching my girls how to use money wisely, but I’m at a lost in how to do it. We give our girls a monthly allowance, and I try to talk about basic principles with them. But I think I need to be more intentional about this as they are getting older (11 and 7).
Have you read any great books about teaching kids how to be smart with finances?
A few years ago I read a book by Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey’s daughter) titled “Smart Money, Smart Kids”.
I also had the opportunity to meet some great folks at FinCon last year focused on Financial Literacy for kids. Check out Paul Vassey at cashcrunchgames.com and Bill Dwight at famzoo.com. Both have outstanding resources to help parents teach their kids about money.
Chris Roane says
Thanks for the recommendations. I just got Smart Money, Smart Kids on audio book and we are going to start listening later this week. I’ll look into the other resources you listed.
Keep up the great work. You are an inspiration to me, and I feel like I can learn a ton from your wisdom.
Adrian Jones says
I like how you talk about starting to teach children about the value of money as young as possible since this would allow them to be able to understand that money is worth a certain value, and that the importance of saving money would be a good thing for them in the long run. Another thing I like is that there is positive reinforcement when it comes to teaching this to younger children, as they are rather impressionable and would learn from the best, in order to see that what they’re doing is right. Now, this hasn’t crossed my mind but now that you mention it, it’s a good idea to start teaching them early on how to value their money so that they have a good sense of saving when they’re much older.
Savvy History says
Massive respect to you for doing this! I love how he asks to “see the numbers” on your phone! How funny. I obviously think it’s OK if he’s not interested in stocks yet… you’ll get there. It took me until 26. Even with my delayed interest – like you – we are under the impression our son will grow up with better financial circumstances than my husband and I ever had.
We want him to understand that privilege (and like you), put an emphasis on the giving of both time and money.