Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet?  No, I don’t mean THAT talk.  I’m talking about money.  Reports show that it is the second hardest conversation to have with your kids behind the big sex talk.  That’s a little scary given what David Whitebread and Sue Bringham of the University of Cambridge discovered back in 2013.   They found that a person’s approach to money, such as planning ahead and delayed gratification, is set by the age of seven.  WOW!  Can you believe that?  It’s crazy that one of the essential aspects of our life can be set so early.  It’s not that it can’t be changed after that, but they do have to be replaced instead of molded.

So, at what age do we start to talk to kids about money?  The answer, as soon as possible.

How do we go about talking to kids about money?  First, it’s not one conversation.  It should be an on-going conversation throughout their childhood.  Second, you have to make it enjoyable.  Sitting them down at the kitchen table isn’t going to cut it.  Let them be involved in the day to day of the household, at the age-appropriate times, of course.  I’m not saying you have to tell them what you make or give them every little detail.  However, explain what you are doing and why.  Take them with you when you negotiate to buy a car.  Let them watch you pay the bills, so they understand that the electric, AC, and internet is not free.  Prepare them by giving them the knowledge of money management before they get out into the real world.

Listed below is an overall guide of money topics and ages to start the discussions.  It’s not set in stone.  You know your child better than anyone else, but you might be surprised at how early your kids can start to understand some of these concepts.  Remember, by the age of seven; money habits are set.  Teach them early, so they don’t have to break bad habits later.  It can be a game-changer in your child’s life.

Ages 2 to 3

  • Learning to count
  • Coin Identification Games
  • Start showing that “stuff” costs money
  • Be a good example – kids are watching!

Ages 4 to 8

  • Start having them earn money (as Dave Ramsey would say, have them earn commission instead of an allowance, but keep it age appropriate – have them pick up their toys, make their beds, etc.)
  • Now that your child is earning money talk with them about how to divide it up.  Don’t overcomplicate, but divide it up into three categories: Spending, Saving, and Giving.  Spending is obvious.  Savings is long term spending, generally reserved for more expensive items.  It is excellent for starting to teach kids about patience, goal setting, impulse buying, and delayed gratification – areas where most adults have issues.  Giving is also an important aspect to learn early.
  • Let them spend!  Now that they have their own money, let them spend it.  Make sure they take the money out of their spending or savings bank and make sure they hand the money to the cashier.  It is a crucial step.
  • Encourage kids to use their imaginations and figure out ways to earn money.
  • Be a good example – kids are watching!

Ages 9 to 12

  • It’s time to move their money from their banking system to a “real bank.”  Open a checking/savings account.  It’s time to start learning about interest.  It can help show how money can make money.
  • Let’s talk value of money.  Talk to your kids about quantity vs. quality.  Needs vs. wants.
  • Time for a garage sale or donate.  Let your kids look around their room and determine what they want vs. what is collecting dust.
  • Time to budget.  You have probably already touched on the subject, but now it’s time to create one on paper, or the latest app.
  • Be a good example – kids are watching!

Ages 13 to 15

  • Continue budgeting discussions as their earning potential is growing.
  • Family needs vs. wants.  They are old enough now to understand the family dynamic and how it works together.
  • Introduce them to more growth strategies, such as the stock market.
  • Be a good example – kids are watching!

Ages 16 to 18

  • What is credit, and why is it important?
  • Continue advanced investment talks and help them understand things such as IRAs, 401Ks, mutual funds, etc.
  • Let’s talk rent, car loans, mortgages, insurance, etc.
  • Prioritizing spending, which should be paid first, second, etc.
  • Introduce more spending responsibility 
  • Be a good example – kids are watching!