When I was a kid, the extent of my money education was hearing my parents talking about their finances in low voices, and giving me an allowance that was mine to save or squander—I just had to learn to live with the consequences. I eventually learned how to manage my money by trial and error, but I’ve often wished I had been given more groundwork on money management when I was young. When my three kids became old enough to have their own money, I decided I’d like to take a different approach with them than my parents took with me. I wanted them to want to know the value of money so they could learn how to save and spend intelligently. I wanted to set them up for a successful future.
I started using games and apps, because the best way to get my kids to pay attention (especially my two boys, who love video games) is always to make it fun. We play both traditional board games like Monopoly and app games, because as money is becoming more and more digital, I feel it’s important to show my kids how money can be used in both a physical and digital environment. Our two favorites are actually Monopoly and an app called Save! The Game. Monopoly has started introducing my kids to the basic concepts of investing—including the fact that not all investments will be successful! What I love about Save! The Game, is that it helps all my children learn to distinguish between needs and wants. It would be a real challenge to make that concept less abstract without the help of a game! We’ve also made up our own games—from setting up our own “grocery store” at home, to creating a version of The Price is Right, pricing the items with chores instead of money, showing them how much work it takes to earn what they want. If they guess right, they don’t get the item (they still need to manage their own money!), but we do have little rewards in place to keep it fun and interesting.
Today, my sons (10 and 7), and my daughter (6) all know more than I did at their ages. My youngest may still be struggling with the idea of saving her allowance for the stuffed animal she wants (there’s a big picture of it in our Piggybot account!), but my oldest is realizing that being patient and investing in things he really wants and needs instead of cheap trinkets makes him happier in the long run. When I hear statistics like 4 in 10 Millennials worry about money at least once a week, I’m all the more determined to teach my kids how to budget, save, and avoid debt for their adult lives. Because I love them, I know it's important to help them prepare for a secure and independent future—and I love that I can do that in a way we can all enjoy.