In the last 20 years, the American childhood experience has undergone dramatic changes. Thanks to technology, we see new opportunities for learning, developing and innovating. Take tablets, smartphones, video games and laptops for instance. Even the youngest of today's adults didn't have these types of gadgets until they were older. In two decades, we witnessed a fundamental social transformation. (For related reading, also see Opening Your Child's First Bank Account.)
TUTORIAL: How To Manage Credit And Debt
Unfortunately, that transformation has created new challenges for kids of this new millennium. When we were kids, there was no Facebook and social media for cyberbullying to happen. Education was less expensive, student debt numbers were lower and there was less pressure to develop a strong technical background. As much as we do our best to relate to our kids, we need to find a way to bridge the gaps, especially when it comes to their developing personal finance habits. In many respects, we can return to the basics, but in others, we need to leverage today's technological climate. Here are seven tips for financially empowering your kids:
Give Them Ownership Over Their Savings
Help kids develop a strong command over the money that they save and spend. Teach them about maintaining a healthy balance of cash-in and cash-out, and create an age-appropriate allowance system. When your kids become young teenagers, encourage them to start reading personal finance blogs, and have open conversations about trending topics. Eventually, you can also help them enroll into a service like Mint.com, where they can manage cash, credit cards and investment accounts from a computer or smartphone.
Show How Their Savings Contribute to the Family
If you're an avid coupon clipper, ask your kids to help on a regular basis. Bring your kids on your shopping trips, and make sure that they see the register come checkout time. See how much you save, and ask your kids to help plan fun activities as your savings continue to grow. Again, you can help your kids find blogs to read for inspiration.
Give Them Valuable Jobs
Instead of paying allowance, pay your kids an hourly wage for tasks around the home. You could also pay them on a task-specific basis as an alternative. Empower them to learn early on that hard work pays off and that rewards are valuable. Eventually, give them jobs that actually contribute to savings around the house like clipping coupons.
Teach Them "Why" in Addition to "How" and "What"
Today's kids are inquisitive, and they have a hunger for understanding the big picture. Kids like to be able to connect what they're doing to a bigger picture. This intellectual skill is one that is valuable for the long-run too. Over time, they will start to understand the "why" on their own, without a prompt.
Encourage Them to Volunteer
Teach them the value of hard work outside of your home. Volunteering is one of the best ways for kids to interact with supervisors, mentors and peers. They'll develop key skills from an early age that will help carry them far. Above all, they'll develop important values for collaboration and social good. These skills are invaluable when learned early.
Leverage Their Imaginations
Kids have amazing imaginations, and are truly inspirational sources for creativity. Help them learn to embrace and channel it. When we're adults, our imaginations seem to fade to gray. Help them keep their minds alive by bridging the gap between imagination and reality. Personal finance subjects provide a great place to start.
Let Them Voice Their Perspectives Regarding Major Decisions
Kids are smart, and they will surprise you with their smarts. As they grow older, ask their opinions about financial decisions that you're making. Ask them what they think is the best course of action, even if you're confused. Remember to be age-appropriate, and remind them that ultimately, as an adult, you have the final say. Regardless, it's important for kids to learn how to handle important decisions, and they'll learn best from observing your thought process. Soon enough, your kids will be adults who need to make these decisions too.
The Bottom Line
The kids of this millennium have a world of opportunity ahead of them. Because of technology, they are living through experiences that we adults could not have imagined. Ultimately, we need to teach kids how to learn and to navigate some of these channels themselves. Money is one place to start. (For additional reading, also take a look at 5 Financial Lessons You Must Teach Your Kids.)