Money doesn't grow on trees

Children certainly don’t come with an instruction manual. From the time they’re learning to crawl parents begin teaching their children about right and wrong, personal safety, manners and morals.

Over time, children are taught about stranger-danger, healthy eating and personal accountability. Interestingly however, many Australian parents leave out one of the most important survival skills their children will need in the future - how to take care of themselves financially.

Earning, saving and sharing
Teaching children about how to manage their personal finances from a young age will have a profound impact on their attitude to money in the future. We teach our children about spending money, but making this the only facet of money management they are exposed to is fraught with danger. Exposing children to the emphasis of buying can come at the expense of other important money skills that children need to learn – earning, saving and sharing.

It’s more about character than coin
Giving children the skills to control their finances is not only beneficial to their financial wellbeing – it also contributes to the forming of their personality and unique attributes. The lessons on self-control, conviction, resourcefulness, contentment and compassion are all valuable in shaping a well-rounded, socially aware and responsible person.

Do I look like an ATM?
In this age of online banking and plastic, it’s difficult for children to understand the value of these transactions because all they see is you giving a card to a salesperson or tapping a machine and then being handed the goods.

Where to start?
ASIC’s MoneySmart website has teaching resources for teachers (including parents and guardians) to help develop financial skills in young people. Resources include e-books, videos and interactive activities. You can visit their website at www.moneysmart.gov.au/teaching

While this is a useful initiative, there are some simple things you can do at home to put your child on the right track:

  • Let your children watch you do online banking so they can see how much money you have and how it is managed each month to pay for recurring and unexpected living expenses.
  • Encourage your children to play ‘shop’ at home.
  • Let them help with putting coins in the parking meter or vending machine
  • Explain the reasoning behind your budget and how it helps your family save to take holidays or do fun activities.
  • You may want your children to earn their pocket money by doing age-appropriate things around the house, like watering the plants, setting the table or packing the dishwasher and then make them save some of the money to create a savings routine from an early age.

For teenage children, you might raise the prospect of setting up a trust in their name through which your child can invest some of their savings in a managed fund or shares. This can be a daunting task for a parent and it may be useful to talk to one of our financial planners about the various ways this can be done.

Talk to your children about money and keep talking to them about it as they grow. The lessons learned will stay with them for life.

If you need advice on your and your family’s financial future make an appointment with a Bridges financial planner.