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Money Matters: Teaching Kids to Be "Trust" Worthy

by Alan Goldfarb

Money Matters: Teaching Kids To Be

Is your child or grandchild going to be the recipient of a large inheritance?

The problem of raising financially responsible children is compounded when children receive trust funds. An inheritance can seem like a windfall, especially to a young person just out of their teens or recently graduated from college.

“Some parents hide trusts from their kids because they are afraid the money will ruin them,” says Dick Wagner, a financial planner and principal of WorthLiving, LLC.

But teaching children to manage money doesn’t happen on the day a trust fund passes to the child. It starts when the child begins to realize that money is a medium of exchange.

In other words, preparation for inheritance starts early.

Home-Schooling

According to experts on the psychology of inheriting wealth, positive attitudes and values about money start at home.

“You communicate values about money through your example,” says Nancy Langdon Jones, CFP, NL Jones, Inc.

“Most children mimic their parents’ attitudes about money. Parents who have a healthy, affirmative relationship to money and who openly communicate about finances give their children a solid foundation for handling money and developing a comfortable relationship with wealth.”

When should you start teaching children about money, and how do you help them learn the right lessons?

Nowadays, teaching kids about money is a lot more than just setting up savings accounts for holiday and birthday gifts.

A U.S. Trust survey of affluent parents revealed that a majority of these successful respondents take proactive steps to teach their children financial responsibility. Most give their children allowances and have set up savings, checking, and brokerage accounts for them.

In addition, most parents expect their children to learn the value of earning money by requiring them to have part-time jobs during their junior and senior high school years and to contribute to the cost of college education by working part-time.

However, the parents in the survey started training their children about money at a very early age. The following are some of the techniques they used, as well as other age-related tips on teaching your children about money.

Tips on Allowances

  • Give children an allowance starting at around age four or five so they can learn how to handle discrete amounts of money. An allowance helps the child learn how to manage money and share in the family’s resources.
  • Help them set goals and budget their allowance for both short-term and long-term expenditures.
  • Don’t advance an allowance when a child “blows” his/her money too early in the month. Children need to learn how to anticipate needs and to experience the consequences of impulse spending.
  • Require children to save a portion of their allowance and to donate a portion to non-profits or charitable organizations.

Tips for Preschoolers

  • Dump out your change on the floor to show young children how to distinguish among various coins. Explain the relative values of each coin by showing them how much it takes to pay for their favorite toy or snack.
  • Play “store” and let your child “buy” things with the coins.
  • When children start asking for treats at the store, give them a dollar or two to spend and help them understand that if they spend the entire amount on the toy car, they can’t also buy the toy airplane.
  • Help children learn to make a distinction between things that they simply “want” and things that they really need.
  • Take your child to your office and show them where and how you earn your money.
  • Begin explaining how the products you buy are created by companies that you can own through shares.
  • Give children some shares of the company that makes their favorite toy or food.

Tips for Preteens

  • Let older children participate in discussions on family finances, explain how the family budget works, and show them how large sums of money are managed. When the family makes a large purchase, such as a new car or vacation home, let children participate in the decision-making process.
  • Teach children how to make good buying decisions based on their own sense of values, not peer pressure.
  • Teach children a work ethic and let them earn additional money by performing special chores over and above their assigned family responsibilities. Let kids earn money to experience and appreciate the value of earning.
  • Plan low-cost and no-cost family activities to show children how to have fun without spending money.
  • If children want to “borrow” money for a major purchase, such as a new bicycle, assess a reasonable amount of interest and require that the loan be repaid within a reasonable amount of time. In this way, the child learns that credit costs money and also carries responsibility for repayment.
  • Create a family investment committee and fund it with seed money. Let the kids participate in investment decisions and share profits with them. After a while, add a charitable component and let the kids decide where to allocate the money. This teaches both respect for money and responsibility for using it properly.
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Tips for Teens

  • Establish a clothing allowance for teens and let them manage their clothing money without interference.
  • Explain how credit works and why it costs more to charge items.
  • Teach your teen how to read financial information and give them subscriptions to financial newspapers and magazines.
  • Encourage your teen to invest a portion of their money in a particular stock or mutual funds. Let them set up their own accounts and make their own decisions about what to invest in. Most importantly, don’t bail them out if they make mistakes and lose money—that’s part of the learning process.
  • Make sure young adults understand what’s coming from any trusts they may receive, and encourage them to plan how they will use and invest this money.

   Kids & Money on the Internet

You can use the resources of the Internet to help you teach children about money and how to handle it.

There are a number of youth-oriented mutual funds and financial websites to help children learn about money and how to make savvy investment decisions. Here are a select number of websites to check out:

Consumer Jungle
www.consumerjungle.org
Consumer Jungle was developed by the Young Adult Consumer Education Trust, and helps high school students become savvy consumers. It provides information through games and activities on topics such as credit cards, transportation, living on your own, personal finances, telecommunications, and e-commerce fraud.

Federal Reserve Educaton
www.federalreserveeducation.org
The Federal Reserve Education site provides visitors with an interactive journey through the Federal Reserve’s history, money policy, regulatory functions and financial services. Games and simulations are presented for students in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

Kids.gov
www.kids.gov
This U.S. government interagency Web site for kids, developed and maintained by the Federal Citizen Information Center, provides links to Federal kids’ sites along with some of the best kids’ sites from other organizations all grouped by subject.

TreasuryDirect Kids
www.treasurydirect.gov/kids/kids.htm
This government site for kids provides interactive educational information and games focusing on the U.S. public debt, U.S. Treasury securities, and coins and currency.

Alan Goldfarb is chief financial strategist for Weaver and Tidwell Financial Advisors in Dallas (www.weaverllp.com).


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