State Treasurer of Iowa

Five Tips on Teaching Money to Kids

With teachers, students and parents preparing for back-to-school, it’s a great opportunity to teach children about money, shopping and budgeting. 

Learning how to think about money and manage it wisely is an important life skill. In the end, we hope that our children will grow into financially responsible adults, to live within their means, free from anxieties of debts and secure in their future. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Start Early: As soon as kids are old enough to count, they’re old enough to start learning about money basics. For instance, they can count out the four quarters it takes to buy a small piece of candy at the grocery checkout line
  2. Discuss Wants vs. Needs: Teaching kids the value of saving is to help them distinguish between wants and needs. Explain needs by including the basics, such as food, shelter and clothing. Their wants are all the extras. You can show your own budget as an example on how wants should take a back seat to needs. 
  3. Set Savings Goals: For children, being told to save without explaining why may seem pointless. Helping them define a savings goal can be a better way to get them motivated. If they know what it is they want to save for, help them break down their goals into manageable bites. 
  4. Set a Good Example: If you want your children to become savers, being one yourself can help. Getting your emergency fund in shape, opening a 529 savings account or simply increasing your 401(k) plan contributions are all steps you can take to encourage saving as a family activity.
  5. School Year: There is more to school expenses than clothing and supplies. Help your child look ahead for upcoming expenses, such as dances, class trips and college application fees. 
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