- Give them a weekly allowance. In our house, a standard weekly allowance is earned if all 7 of the weekly tasks are checked at the end of the week and only if you take the initiative to do them yourself. It is not earned if Mom or Dad need to hound you. In addition, we have bonus contributions that can earn you an extra $2 each (mind bafflingly, these are rarely done).
- Buy them a wallet. Each of our kids got their first wallet around age 4, but in reality, it wasn’t until more like 6 that the concept really clicked. We’ve made the mistake of letting two different kids bring their wallets out shopping, only to be lost with all of their savings inside (rookie move, we know). One of them had an old school ID inside and you wouldn’t believe it but the person who found it contacted the school and sent it to them, with all $94 dollars intact!
- Start a custodial savings account. We did this for each of our kids at age 5. They live on a platform where they are invested in mutual funds and the kids can check in on their growth from time to time. We have one who hands over cash like it’s burning a hole in her pocket, and another who loves squirreling away his nuts (he's a liquid asset kind of guy) and has a harder time seeing his paper turn into digital numbers on a screen.
- Match savings, dollar for dollar. We realize not everyone has the capacity to do this, and to be honest, we haven’t always either. We have certainly found that it’s a huge incentive to put that $100 bill Grandma gifted for their birthday into savings when they see it automatically turn into $200. We talk a lot about the "why" behind growing their savings and hope that when the time comes, they'll want to put it towards their first cars (though one of them legit has zero interest in ever owning a car because... climate change).
- Help them set boundaries but let them make their own decisions about how to spend their money. We talk to our kids, a lot, about consumption. Both from a resource perspective, and a financial one. We encourage them to think through purchases before making them and to think into the future before spending (are their birthday or holiday gifts you need to save for coming up?).
- Make giving a priority. This comes naturally to some of us, and is something others need to stretch themselves into. Our kids are a case in point. One of them (the saver, obv) would give everything she has to someone who needed it. Her brother, well, giving comes a bit less naturally. We try to pick out a few non-profits to donate do at the end of the year (though admittedly it doesn’t happen every year), having the kids do their own research and make an argument for their choices.
- Help them dream up creative ways to make money. One of our kids loves money (the squirreler). I don’t know what to say, he just does. We have embarked upon a few different money making endeavours that have been so much fun for both of us. A couple years ago he had the idea of making necklaces out of driftwood we had found on a road trip, donating half his profits to the Surfrider Foundation, and over the past year we’ve been selling mochi donuts through a friend’s local farmstand.
As they grow into their teens, which we are just beginning to navigate, teachings can get more nuanced and dynamic. The ideas of investing and compound interest and opening their own bank accounts. Most importantly, instilling in them the idea that no matter how much money they have, they have everything they need. And from that place, abundance grows. There's a fine line between teaching them to spend consciously and imbedding a scarcity mindset. We are firm believers that money is like energy and that we get back the frequency we put out, so financial literacy is about learning the framework, setting the guard rails, and then not getting too attached.