Let me just say right off the bat that I am no financial expert. I don’t even play one on T.V. (But I do sleep with one, so maybe that makes me qualified to write this post.)
What I do know is that money is a tricky, tricky issue. It can be the source of great joy, but it can also cause great sorrow.
Frankly, I hate money. I hate the necessity of it. I hate the lack of it. I hate when I disagree about it with my spouse. I hate everything about it.
Which is exactly why I have to be intentional about teaching my kids about money. Because I really believe that if you don’t show money who’s boss, it’ll quickly turn the tables on you and become your ruler.
Why do kids need to know about money?
Think about it. How much did you know about money when you got out of college or headed out on your own? Had you ever managed a check book? Had you ever had a savings account? Had you ever paid a bill?
I’ll bet you had a credit card, but did you know how much interest you were paying if you didn’t pay your entire balance at the end of the month?
Money is such a huge part of life, but too many kids are sent out into the world ill-equipped to make financial decisions for themselves. Too many young people have no idea what it takes to be financially savvy in the world today and they easily get themselves into trouble. They suffer because of their lack of knowledge, and, ultimately, the rest of the world suffers too.
But I truly believe that with careful planning and solid biblical training, anyone—even a child—can learn to be good stewards of their finances.
Financial principals we believe in
B and I trained our girls to handle money from a very young age, believing that knowing some basic financial principals would then turn into habits which would carry them into adulthood. And it has!
From the time they were four years old we have stressed stewardship in three ways: giving, saving, and spending. Today I’ll focus on giving and saving. Next week I’ll share how we taught our girls about spending.
The first time that B and I sat down as newlyweds to pay bills together was an eye-opener for me. He made it very clear that the first check we write on payday was our check to church. No exceptions. He said that if we were faithful in this, God would supply the rest of our needs.
And you know what? He has. Always and faithfully, God has met our needs as a couple. I could tell you stories about days when we didn’t think we’d be able to pay our bills, but how, at just the right time, God came through in miraculous ways. Today I am so thankful for a husband who has made giving a priority.
So when our girls were about four, we started them on a meager allowance of four quarters a week. Each girl had three jars that were labeled “Giving,” “Saving,” and “Spending.” And each week they would say the same thing over and over again: “One for God, one for saving, and two for spending.” It became a family mantra after a while, “One for God, one for saving, and two for spending,” but they knew the mantra and can repeat it today.
The order in which those quarters were dropped into the jars was extremely significant: the God jar was always first.
As they grew up their allowances got bigger, and everyone was expected to have a job, whether it was babysitting, painting, or hostessing at a restaurant. And we always expected them to put aside the first ten percent for God. They have learned, from a very young age, that God gives us money for a reason—to live, yes, but also to give. It’s a habit that I pray will continue as our girls get older.
The second jar was for saving. It got the same amount as the God jar (one quarter at first, more later) and came second, after God got His money. The idea here is that saving—even just a small amount—adds up and is just as much a priority as giving. If you don’t think you can save anything, think again.
Giving your kids savings goals is one way to help them learn this principal. We expected our girls to help pay for part of their college expenses, so each one had a savings account for that since they were very young.
But we’ve also gave them smaller savings goals as they got older. For instance, once they got into 6th grade, we made them start paying for part of their summer camp expenses. (Do you have any idea how expensive summer camp is?!) It’s not that we couldn't afford to pay for camp, it’s that we wanted our girls to appreciate the privilege of going to camp by investing in it themselves. In 6th grade we expected them to contribute $200 toward their camp fee. After that, it increased until eventually they have to pay half (which was about $500).
That probably sounds like a lot of money for a kid to have to save, but just think about the look of pride on your child’s face when they meet this difficult goal. I bet they will be beaming with pride.
Making and meeting savings goals helps keep kids accountable both to us as parents, but also to themselves. And the sense of accomplishment that they feel when the goal is reached will hopefully help them set more and higher goals in the future.
So to recap: emphasize giving back to God among the highest financial priority our kids should have. Teach them the concept of tithing first and foremost. And second, encourage your kids to have a savings goal. Even if they think they can’t save a dime, they will soon learn that they can do it and they will be happy they did.
Next week I’ll share some spending principles that worked well for us as well as some tips for teaching your kids about money. I hope you’ll join me then!