When was the last time you talked to your kids about money? If you’re like many parents, the thought of having a money talk probably sends you into a cold sweat - even more so than having “the birds and bees” talk. When should you start the conversation? The time is now! Studies have found that kids start absorbing money messages from their parents at a very early age.
Raising a child that is mindful and intentional about money is an essential component of helping your child have less anxiety around money as they mature. And while money can’t buy happiness, making good money choices can go a long way in leading an abundant and fulfilling life.
Read on for five money messages that will help your kids for years to come – if not the rest of their lives.
1. Understanding that you can’t have everything
Parents whose kids have asked why they don’t have the same things as their friends will relate – be it the latest name brand sneakers or a trip to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. A big part of being financially savvy is being able to give up some things in order to save for others, and mindfulness will help your child understand what things are more important in life and line up their money choices accordingly.
In practice: Next time you’re in the toy aisle, don’t just tell your child “no” – try explaining to them that the money you could’ve spent on toys is instead paying for your family pet’s vet bills or for your summer vacation.
2. The difference between wants and needs
To kids, everything may feel like a “want” because they’re not in the habit of having to think about “needs.” Without having them help pay the mortgage, it’s possible to help them begin grasping this concept. And the sooner the better – many adults still struggle with this and are in shock when they look at their credit card statement and realize that what felt like “needs” in the moment were actually “wants” that they now regret purchasing.
In practice: When you’re out grocery shopping, get your kid’s help with the shopping list and make it into a game: staples like bread are a “need” and go in the cart, while treats like ice cream are a “want” and stay on the shelf, except for maybe one or two.
3. Appreciation for what they have (and for sharing it with others)
Any parent who’s seen their child delight in sharing a snack or a toy with others understands that children can also feel the joy of giving. Being grateful for the things that you have – and willing to share them with others – encourages happiness in life as well as a feeling of abundance.
In practice: If you have “saving” and “spending” jars set up, put another jar alongside them for “sharing.” You can also develop family traditions of giving back, such as volunteering together once a month or picking a charity every holiday season to make a family donation to.
4. The interconnection of your spending choices and your values
Every dollar you spend and invest is like placing a vote for what you value. What do your credit card statements say about you? Are you someone who shops local? Who checks out companies’ sustainability practices? When you’re out shopping, are you regularly making purchases that you feel good about later on? This is an area where role modeling is especially important – if you’re talking about your personal values in front of your kids but not putting your money where your mouth is, they’re sure to notice.
In practice: Next time you’re at the farmers market, let your child ask a few questions of the vendors to learn about their farming practices and what makes them more sustainable than the commercial farms that supply your local grocery store.
5. The importance of setting savings goals
Setting goals in life makes you several times more likely to actually reach them, and the same goes for your money. After all, how can you be mindful about the path you’re on if you’re not sure of the destination? Do what you can to make your child aware of your family’s savings goals, like an upcoming vacation or home purchase, while also setting some individual goals with your child. They can include saving up for some fun things, but also more practical goals like making contributions to their 529 college savings account or paying the upcharge for a bicycle or smartphone with more bells and whistles.
In practice: You can teach the importance of saving to your kids by helping them practice delayed gratification. Would they rather use the little bit of money they have now to buy a piece of candy, or wait to save up some more and buy the Lego set they’ve got their eyes on?
Keep in mind that one of the most impactful ways to teach kids mindful money habits is to be good role models and practice them ourselves. Has it been a while since you looked over your statements or reviewed progress toward your financial goals? Are you investing in your future? And spending your money where it matters most to you?
If so, your kids are surely noticing in one way or another. If not, it isn’t too late to start being more mindful with your money. Jumpstart your mindful money parenting by checking out our “How To Raise A Mindful Money Genius” workshop at the Chrysalis Institute’s upcoming Mindful Parenting Conference on June 9.