Raising Financially Literate Children

I will never forget the time I bounced a check.  I was 11 years old and had a job delivering 68 newspapers a day for the Columbus Telegram.  My Mom came into my room holding a bank notice, asking me what in the world I had done in my checking account.


I had a check book for my paper route that my parents and I had closely monitored and balanced together for over a year.  Somewhere along the way I became quite the independent baseball card connoisseur and blew through about $1,600 of savings in less than a month. I was writing checks all over town and it was great; until that bank notice arrived.


That was a valuable experience for me and I am thankful (now) that my parents used it as an opportunity to teach me a hard lesson.  I am a firm believer that parents’ role in teaching kids how to handle money is grossly understated these days.  If we spent 10% of the effort teaching our kids about how to earn and handle money that we do promoting soccer practice and cheerleading competitions, our kids would be far better equipped to succeed as young adults.


It’s surprising to me that I made it all the way through high school and college without a single class on personal finance. I’d love to see that change for our kids. But until then, it’s up to us as parents to show our kids firsthand examples of wise financial habits.  I am newer to parenting so I don’t claim to know it all, but I want to share two ideas with you that I think can have a positive influence in your family tree for years to come.


  1. Be intentional about exhibiting and sharing good personal finance practices with your kids from the time they are little. For example, sit your kids down and talk to them about planning your next family vacation. Plan the details of the trip together and help explain the different costs to them.  Once they begin to understand how things add up, show them how to create a plan for setting aside money each month until then so you can pay for it. Be sure to share periodic updates with them as you build the vacation fund so they see the work and process it takes to do these things. Very few kids will forget these lessons.


  1. Make your kids earn their money the hard (real) way. I am thankful to have grown up in a small town where it was normal to start working when you were young.  I remember meeting kids at Creighton in my undergrad years that had yet to have a real job. I had been receiving W-2s for eight years already. I believe that part of raising children to be successful with their finances comes from putting them into places where they can learn these lessons on their own. One great thing about Nebraska is that there is plenty of work to be done; bagging groceries, detasseling corn, delivering papers, babysitting, mowing lawns, and so forth.  Don’t be afraid to let your kids work hard to earn their money.  If nothing else, stop paying “allowances” and start paying them “commissions” based on the work they do to earn the money.


So here’s a toast to all you parents out there. Let’s intentionally raise some hard working, financially literate children so that down the road we can toast the successes of the next generation with umbrella drinks instead of sipping seltzer water and wishing we had taught them these important lessons.  ©2014


Matt Atchison is a Financial Advisor with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.  He can be reached at matthew.atchison@raymondjames.com (402) 505-7700  13321 California Street, Suite 320 Omaha, NE 68154.  Any opinions are those of Matt Atchison and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

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