For the past 25 years I have been teaching people how and why to teach their kids about money.  And yet, many still struggle with how to teach their kids about their money choices.  I think I know why.

Most of the adults I work with, and listen to, are genuinely wonderful parents.  They LOVE their kids.  They want to give their kids everything they did not have.  And therein lies the problem.  The “giving” is more about the parents than it is about their kids. This genuine desire to “give” everything their kids want or need is actually filling a hole parents fell in to when they were kids. Adults don’t want their kids to suffer or struggle as they did growing up. So, now that parents or guardians have the means to “give”, they want to do so.  And I totally get that.

However, in addition to meeting kids’ wants and needs, parents must teach their kids how to get what they want or need on their own.  Otherwise, when everything is given, nothing has much value. For a child to grow into a successful adult, they need financial education.  The first step in this financial education journey is to recognize that as parents/guardians, you are in the best position to provide opportunities for your children to learn how to manage the money in their lives.

Here are other steps you can take to help your children grow into successful adults:

Start with chores

In the beginning, while your kids are elementary-age or younger, assign your kids “chores” and tasks that teach them self-discipline and how to be a good citizen of the household.  Expect them to work. Some chores are assigned because they are a member of the family team. Other chores or tasks can be offered for them to take on to earn money. Either option teaches them responsibility and how they are active contributors to your family.

Talk about wants and needs

Next, define for them the difference between wants and needs.  For example, a need is a pair of gym shoes.  A want is a pair of designer gym shoes. Then ask them to list their wants and needs and then prioritize that list.  What want or need is important enough to make it to the top three of wants and needs?  That “top three” can be the basis for the next step – setting short and long-term goals.  Here’s a link to our “Spending wish list” worksheet to help them create this “top 3” list of priorities: Kids_Smart_Spending_Wish_List_Sheet CURRENT.pdf (

Set Short- and Long-Term Goals

Then, have them focus on setting short- and long-term goals.  A short-term goal is for something they want or need in about one year from today. This is something that is a little more expensive but can be saved up for in the next 12 months. A long-term goal is something they want or need 7-10 years from today. This is something more expensive that will take more time to save up for, like a car, college education or a big trip. Have them estimate how much that goal will cost and how many years they think it will take to save up for that goal.  Once they set their goals, then it’s your turn. Do the same goal-setting exercise and share your goals with your child.  Post these goals side-by-side somewhere that you will see them daily to remind you and your child what you are working towards.  Here’s a link to our short- and long-term goal sheets for kids, teens and adults to help you all set your goals: Money Savvy Generation | Resources for Families

Start an allowance

Once the goals are set, consider starting an allowance. Allowance is a written contract that requires them to cover expenses you have covered. Allowance is the gateway to budgeting. Having an allowance offers them the opportunity to make mistakes with money and provides you an opportunity to show them how to fix those mistakes.  Use our allowance contract worksheets to help you get started: Money Savvy Generation | Resources for Families

Encourage work outside of the home

Whether it is their first lemonade stand or their first job, a job continues to teach your child responsibility and how to make money independent of you.

Once you start, show them you are serious and be consistent.  Make this education a priority in your daily parenting life. I know – I know, “one more thing!”.  But each of these steps will give your child what they need to be both emotionally and financially independent of you.

Free resources to get started

Click this link to our “Resources for Families” page on our website to print out the free worksheets you need to start today: Money Savvy Generation | Resources for Families

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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