Father once told me that if I wanted to learn how to drive, I must know how to change a flat tyre.
That brought a slight halt to my teenage zest but I made a silent steely reserve to get down to knowing more about automobiles.
Years later, as a young adult, when my ‘spend’ and ‘earn’ were chasing each other like Tom and Jerry, I turned around and asked my dad,
“When you gave me money to spend, why didn’t you ask me to learn where it came from?”
My father stroked his peppered beard thoughtfully.
But I mean what I have stated earlier. All during my childhood years I thought that money actually grows on trees!
Most Indian parents do a swell job of talking to their children about values, discipline, academics, school and family. But when it comes to sexual awareness and money, most of us shy away from it. The parents either pend it for later or don’t know how to deal with it or just sweep it under the carpet as they are uncomfortable and ill equipped to talk about it.
An interesting survey conducted by CCN Money – Teaching Kids Financial Responsibility 2015, about ‘Talking Money Matters to Children’ reveals that only 24% of the 50,000 parents surveyed actually talk about money to their children.
WHAT AGE TO BEGIN TALKING ABOUT MONEY TO CHILDREN?
Let’s just say that the minute your child has learnt to count, they are ready to begin learning about money.
Doting grandparents, aunts and uncles dutifully follow the Indian tradition of doling out ‘shagun’ to young ones at all occasions. Well, if they are old enough to receive it – they are old enough to learn how to deal with it as well!
And we must begin with baby steps, teaching them to treat money as a resource. Just as we teach them how to use water, electricity, plastic etc, so also we must teach them how to use money. Treat it as simply as that.
WHERE AND WHEN TO TALK ABOUT MONEY TO CHILDREN?
Just as we read stories and sing songs with them, so also we must talk about money. In a child like manner.
While shopping, filling fuel, buying groceries, shopping for toys, buying books – talk about how much they cost, incidentally. Do not make a distinguished effort to talk about issues such as cost, expense etc. But rather, let’s just say:
This book has 50 pages and now lets just flip and see how much it costs. Rs 100, I see !
While driving, when you stop at a roadside stall to buy some coconut, enjoy the cool water and ask your Preschooler to count the money that needs to be given to the coconut vendor.
When shopping for a packet of biscuits that cost Rs 20, explain to your little one as to why did you receive Rs 80 back from the shopkeeper.
No harm if your little one watches you pay your electricity bill online. That’s a great opportunity to tell him how adults handle household affairs related to money.
If you decide to go and shop at a ‘Sale‘, you could talk casually to your child as to why you opt to buy during sales.
Begin to teach your kids home economics by asking them to switch off unnecessary lights and bulbs, as it saves both money and electricity – two precious Resources.
And that is how the story about money should be told to our young children – in a pleasant and open manner.
MONEY DOES NOT GROW ON TREES
When you bring home the daily groceries, tell your child that these are basic needs that money can buy.
When you talk about saving money for buying the next mobile phone, tell your child that this is a ‘want’, a ‘desire’ that you want to save money for.
When you role model such situations before children, they instinctively pick up the difference between wants and needs.
This is a valuable life skill lesson for your child. The child learns the skill to use money wisely to cover their needs and save it to satisfy their desires.
Such lessons will help them gain financial prudence in life later.
Eventually, your little ones will grow up a bit and start asking for POCKET MONEY AND ALLOWANCES.
Since you have been talking openly about money matters with your child, it will help you deal with pocket money issues as well.
Your children will accept the limits and rules set by you regarding spending of money.
Make sure that their pocket money is big enough to allow them minor purchases (such as an odd toy or a chocolate) yet small enough to require them to prioritize their purchases.
Remember, that along with verbal, alphabetic and numerical literacy, your children need financial literacy as well.
Treat it as naturally as learning how to use their A’s, B’s and C’s.
That’s the real trick – keep it simple, conversational, open and inclusive.
Do not hide money matters in the closet!