Teach your kids about financial management at every stage

By Michelle Ancell

When it comes to educating your children about family finances, guess what? You’re already doing it, whether you know it or not. The kids are watching and learning as you make purchases, pay bills and save change. You can take control of the messages you send, however, by consistently integrating awareness about saving and spending.

Here are four different life situations that will enable you to do just that, along with age-appropriate suggestions for each.


Preschool: Explain to young children that people must pay for items. Show them price tags. Make a game out of guessing the price of an item.

Elementary: Ask children to estimate the cost of certain items. Point out sales. Teach children how to calculate the percentage off.

Pre-teen and teen: Analyze prices, cut coupons and shop for the best values. Give your child a budget for clothing, perhaps during back-to-school shopping. Let them make decisions on how to effectively budget the money.

The people in your neighborhood

Preschool: Point out people at work, such as those working at the post office, the craft store, school or the dentist’s office.

Elementary: Build on the earlier point by discussing the training/ education it takes to obtain those jobs and the financial investment of that training.

Pre-teen and teen: Conduct research on the salaries for different professions and the steps it takes to reach those positions.

Paying the Bills

Preschool: Ask children to help you open the mail and explain that you have to pay for services such as trash pick-up, cell phone coverage and warming the house.

Elementary: Review monthly bills and estimate upcoming monthly costs. Ask younger children to write down the amounts they see on the bill (to practice writing their numbers). Older children can chart monthly expenses and create a graph to evaluate how something, like electricity, fluctuates over time.

Pre-teen and teen: Show them the household budget, including salaries. How does the money come in? How does it go out?


Preschool: Arrange three jars or milk cartons – one for savings, one for spending and one for sharing. This helps little ones learn how to use money for future wants and needs and how to share.

Elementary: Visit your local bank or credit union and explain how and why savings accounts work and open one for your child. Some might offer tours or let you talk to staff about how the institution works and how consumers’ money is protected.

Pre-teen and teen: Help working teens understand their paycheck and where the dollars go. Show them how to establish automatic payments to a savings account. Allowances can be paid via a debit card. Show them how to track the money as they spend it on the card. This helps them learn how to use plastic while connecting it to their spending patterns.