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Can You Teach Your Children About Money? This Father of Five Says, "Yes!"

Photo by Kirsty Begg / Stocksy United
Photo by Kirsty Begg / Stocksy United

Want to help your children grow into thoughtful spending habits?  It’s important to start early. We spoke with Jesse Mecham, co-founder of the online financial-planning tool You Need a Budget (YNAB), to learn how he teaches his five kids the value of a buck.

Start here: Talk about it. Don’t make money a scary ‘grown-ups only’ conversation, advises Mecham, or kids will be shut out of the learning possibilities that day-to-day spending can provide. Chat with your kids about your grocery budget, have them check out coupons with you, compare similar items with different price tags at the store. Little by little, they’ll learn that good money habits don't have to be stressful.

As they get older...

Let them earn it.

“I think it is good for kids to understand that we work hard for the money we earn,” says Mecham. A dollar has inherently more value if you understand that someone worked for it (even more so if that someone was you).

It’s important for kids to earn money, so they have to manage it and get in the habit of having it pass through their fingers—and hopefully, hang on to some. Instead of setting up a weekly allowance that kicks in on Friday, Mecham is a believer in connecting kids’ earnings to chores that are appropriate for their age.

Money can help teach your family’s values.

“In our family, we are trying to teach the kids the importance of charity and saving, so if they earn a dollar, 10 cents goes toward charity and then 45 cents to savings and 45 cents for whatever they want,” explains Jesse. “At some point, they will be older, and I won’t be able to dictate a savings rate, but for now, I can pull that off without any issue.”

Let them make their own choices.

“It kills me when my kids have money burning a hole in their pockets and they just waste it,” the busy dad shares. “But we work hard on letting them make those mistakes. Over time they will learn the real reward of waiting.”

Show kids that saving money is fun.

“We keep track of the money that each of the kids has in YNAB, so anytime we are at the store and they want to buy something with their money, it is easy for my wife, Julie, to pull up a balance on her phone and say, ‘Well, Harrison, you have $7.19 in the fun-money category. So to be able to buy this $10 toy, you have to save a little bit more money.’ They are learning at a very young age that before you spend, you have to consult your budget and that it can be very exciting to watch your savings grow—and save up for the things we really want.”

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