It’s been a generation since Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” was burning up the charts, but the lyrics have resonated for me as a parent and equally as a financial advisor over the years. “I believe the children are our future/ Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
As Mother’s Day and Father’s Day comes each year, I’m reminded how we as parents can give gifts to our children. One big lesson with tremendous ROI (return in impact) is teaching children how to become financially literate.
Financial literacy is comparable to learning classes in school. It involves learning concepts and applying specific strategies to take you through life. Financial literacy is the understanding of money such as taxes, savings, bills, retirement, budgeting and paying for school and investing.
A study by the FINRA Foundation estimated that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test. According to the study, Americans have low levels of financial literacy and have difficulty applying financial decision-making skills to real-life situations.
In the United States, there are only five states that require a personal finance for high school graduation: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
What children need is strong communities to help bridge the gap between novice and expert in knowledge of financial literacy. Parents should go to school board meetings and voice concerns over a lack of financial education.
A great resource is EconEdLink which provides a source of classroom-tested, Internet-based economic and personal finance lesson materials for K-12 teachers and their students.
The consequence of not addressing financial literacy is students graduating from college with daunting amounts of credit card and student loan debt. According to Student Loan Hero, an online resource, “Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.”
More often it is up to parents to impart wisdom to the youth regarding savings, borrowing, investing and giving.
What can we do as parents to help solve the financial literacy crisis? I remember classmates having a piggy bank or jar to save their spare change.
Earn: Teach children about the value of working by paying them to do extra work around the house or at a relative’s house. For example, if they help a relative clean out their house before moving or cutting grass for trusted neighbors. Put the money in the piggy bank or jar. Have the child check the contents every few days to determine what the amount of money in there.
Spend: Each time money is spent, have the child subtract the amount from the total. This also teaches children about mathematics as well, which is an added bonus. You could take a child shopping and explain how you set aside a certain about for food and have the child subtract each item from the total amount.
Save: Many kids see a cool new toy, video game or gadget and scream, “I want that!” Give the child a choice, either they can have immediate satisfaction by using the money they saved or they can set aside money each week or month in a separate jar for the expense. Have a countdown each time the child comes closer to the goal.
Borrow: Who could forget a parent saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” If a kid needs to borrow money for a special treat or are short on their goal, give conditions to borrowing. If the child doesn’t pay back the amount when they say they will, tact on a penalty fine such as .10 for each day late. Have the child subtract the amount each day to show if they don’t pay on time, there are consequences.
Invest: Investing can be cool even for youngsters. Ask your child what products they like to buy and why? Research has stated Millennials and teens invest in products with positive corporate social responsibility. Apple products attract a loyal following for their sleek design and their commitment to sustainability. Customers can trade in an eligible device for an Apple Store Gift Card. If it’s not eligible for a credit, Apple will recycle it for free. No matter the model or condition, the company can turn it into something good for the customer and good for the planet. Have a child research where their favorite products come from and how the company gives back to the world.
Give: Ask your child to update you on events in their schools, such as fundraisers or community service projects. Help the child set up fundraising efforts for charity. Another option is to ask what cause resonate with them and allow the child to support it.
To improve financial literacy, adults need to become more financially savvy and especially when today’s youth. As a parent, I create an open dialogue with my children. When they ask about finances, I use everyday examples, such as the water or electric bill to explain the concept of budgeting. I show them how the total is calculated and stress the importance of avoiding late fees.
I encourage parents to involve the family in planning. Are the kids hoping for a family vacation? Great, ask your kids to brainstorm ideas to eliminate unnecessary expense. Do they have their heart set on an attraction? Have them determine how to make the trip a reality. Don’t be afraid to involve professionals. An enriching learning experience is to have your child meet with a CFP® professional and ask about their career.
Lastly, know parents are fallible and make mistakes. Who hasn’t given in and allowed their child to buy a toy or pay back money late. Life happens. Be an inspiration to others and keep moving forward. Houston said learning to love yourself is the greatest gift of all, but a close second is being financially literate. It will pay dividends in the long run. The greatest gift that you can give to others is financial security and confidence.