Do you have a family member who frequently asks you for a handout while mismanaging his or her own finances? It's a touchy subject, especially if the hand belongs to a sibling or other very close relative, where love and the desire to help - along with longstanding tensions - runs high. It can be hard to broach the topic of money, particularly if you're out to criticize a member of your family and his or her ability to manage personal financial matters. But there is one way to get your foot in the door on this conversation: the kids. And if you can get your siblings to teach your nieces and nephews about finance, they may learn enough to avoid asking you for money, too.
Learning Without Lecturing
When you tell your siblings something, it can seem like a lecture. Instead, provide them with resources for their children, such as links to financial games online, or books dedicated to personal finance for youngsters. These may help kids through the curriculum you recommended, and thus learn a few lessons themselves. After all, everyone wants an educated kid.
Pick Lessons and Books Based on Your Siblings' Weaknesses
If your siblings have zilch in their savings, find a couple of exercises on websites, online games or books that are geared toward teaching children about savings. Can a kid's lesson really translate to an adult world? Yes.
Let's say the exercise is about saving for a new toy. The toy costs $15.50 and your nephew puts away $4 per week from his allowance. Your brother gives his kids an envelope in which to keep their money. After four weeks, the child has earned the toy of his dreams.
The next time your nephew tugs on his dad's pant leg begging for the newest cool gadget, your brother can encourage the child to save for it. Your brother saves money on toys he normally would have purchased on demand. Plus, when his child is behaving money-wise, he may also get the hint that when he wants an MP3 player or a new suit that he should save a little from each paycheck - after all, even a kid can do it! Even if dad fails to apply the lessons he's taught his son to himself, most kids have little trouble picking up on these kinds of parallels. If you're lucky, dad may be asked whether he saved up for his purchases by putting money in an envelope.
There are picture books for preschoolers, activity books and full-blown how-to books. There are also online financial games. Even classic children's book character Arthur, stars in "Arthur's Funny Money", where the little monkey has to earn the money to buy himself a T-shirt and cap.
If your nieces or nephews are in their teens, age-appropriate material that can apply directly to your siblings' situations can be found online. There are a bunch of free games on the web that help kids plan a realistic budget based on the job they'd like to have, where they'd like to live and the car they'd like to drive. In addition to budgeting for basic expenses, some websites have options for seeing how long it would take to earn money for items kids want, like new clothes or video games. (For more on budgeting, see Debunking 10 Budget Myths.)
Consider the Attention Spans of Your Siblings and Their Children
Will your siblings sit with their kids through 10 lessons? Are the siblings with financial problems more in tune with reading, activities or video games? To figure out which options are best for inspiring your family to become more interested in finances, ask your siblings about what interesting things they did with their kids this week. Most parents, especially ones with young children, love to gush over their children's every move. Take notes of key activities like reading a book together, playing learning games on the computer or coloring in an activity book. The answers could provide the exact information you need to choose the perfect option.
Try Out All Education Materials First
Try any books, games or activities yourself before recommending them to your family. This way, you'll be able to answer your sibling or their children may have. Plus, if the book, activity or online game is a dud, you'll be able to find out first.
Your siblings' financial woes - and your worries concerning being asked for money - can be solved by helping your brothers and sisters learn with their children about saving and budgeting. Just make sure you choose activities you know they'll enjoy. It could mean big changes for their family - and yours - as your siblings learn how to manage their money, rather than asking for yours.