Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were financially-smart kids. The secret to setting your kids up for a solid financial future is to start with the basics. Deeper than the value of a dollar, budgets and why it’s so important to save lies the very basic lesson of: wants and needs are not the same thing.
While the difference between wants and needs may feel straight forward to grownups, the concept can be complex to kids. Breaking down needs, wants, the fine line between the two and how to make trade-off decisions is critical for instilling money management and financial planning skills.
Know your needs
Needs are essentials. When teaching your kids how to determine what a need is, it’s important to highlight what is a true necessity and what is a needy request —it’s all about perspective. Here are the categories we consider bare necessities:
We find that getting as specific as possible when explaining necessities helps kids master the concept and begin to apply it in real-life trade-off decisions.
Tell me what you want, what you really, really want
If you’re a parent, you’re probably used to hearing the rally cry “I want _____” from your kids. Wants can be described as the things your kids may circle in a magazine or put on an Amazon wish list for the holiday season. Greenlight mom Bonnie Koon even shared that her son once requested $10,000 via his Greenlight app.
Wants are often inspired by peers, pop culture and hobbies. Here are some hopeful requests made by Greenlight kids. We’ll wait while you have a giggle or two.
When raising financially-smart kids, it’s important for parents to let their kids know that wants are a part of life but making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success.
The gray area
No lesson in needs and wants with a child is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, so it’s important to get specific for clarity’s sake when dealing with such an abstract conversation.
Is ice cream a food? Yes, but ice cream is certainly not a necessity. Are Yeezy’s shoes? Yes, but $300 for a pair of shoes is not necessary or a requirement.
It’s important for parents to let their kids know that it’s okay to want certain things. But making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. In general, having a discussion around “wanting” things in life can be a powerful and inspirational discussion. You can want to make the soccer team. Want to be president. Want to have a family when you grow up. It is wants and dreams that put humans on the moon and brought us Beyonce. But when it comes to finances – you can’t always get what you want.
Being able to tackle these types of questions head-first will help kids understand the true meaning of a necessity instead of something they very much want, crave or think they need to meet the status quo.
One way to help kids fully understands wants and needs would be to have them write a list of what they think are needs and what they think are wants. From there, break down needs — if they are a true necessity or not — and tackle what goes into getting a want (such as saving for that pair of Yeezy’s or picking up extra babysitting opportunities to help pay for the spring break trip to New York City). To take it a step further, discuss a budget of $1,000 with your child and include a mix of needs (rent/groceries/phone or car payment) and wants (a new iPhone/concert tickets/new shoes) to showcase that all needs must be met before money goes to wants.
Want it? Save for it
Wants and needs make a perfect opportunity to teach the importance of saving money to reach a goal. Want a new pair of jeans? Save for it. Have $100 extra each month after covering necessities? Add extra money to your savings goal to buy a new MacBook. These wants can act as perfect motivators to increase saving.
Setting up clear savings goals with Greenlight will not only teach kids how to set a savings goal and budget to meet their desired goal, but it will motivate them to save more in the long run. We’ll be talking more about saving in November, so stay tuned for tips from Greenlight families on how to have the right money talks.
Save with Greenlight
Greenlight is all about helping parents raise financially-smart kids, which starts with providing children with opportunities to make smart decisions about their money. The child version of the Greenlight app helps introduce those opportunities and sparks natural conversations between parents and kids.
Kids can monitor their own balances
With the trend toward more digital purchases, kids no longer see their wallet getting smaller as they spend cash. Greenlight gives your kids the ability to check and manage their balances to make sure they’re within budget.
Greenlight tip: We recommend setting time to talk with your kids whenever you give them allowances. Together, discuss distributions of allowances between Spend, Save and Give and discuss why you’re making these choices.
Kids can send requests, also known as Greenlights, when they want to make purchases outside of their Spend Anywhere account or any of the Greenlights you currently have set up.
For kids, this gives them a path to request money if they’re in a pickle. And for parents, this gives you the ability to safely distribute funds for purchases you’re comfortable with.
Showcase the power of saving
Saving for short and long-term goals can be challenging, especially when the satisfaction of taking a full piggy bank to the local teller is a figment of banking past.
With the Greenlight app, kids can see how they’re progressing toward saving goals line-by-line. They can watch that money grow as you add Parent-Paid Interest and see balances update in near real-time. Bet your old piggy bank couldn’t do that. 🐷
Greenlight kids save 3x more than the national average. It’s never too late to kick off conversations, and present kids with real world scenarios to encourage saving.
How to set your kids up
Don’t have Greenlight yet?
18.5% of Greenlight kids have spent money at Amazon
So by our predictions, your kids are probably already buzzing about Amazon Prime Day next week (July 15-16). Maybe they’ve been reading rumors of most epic tech markdowns or set up fancy price alerts to know as soon as their prized item is down to their savings goal balance. (Want price alerts of your own? Here’s one way to set them up.)
As always, we’ve been thinking about how Prime Day can fit into money talks, plus how Greenlight can help you manage spending safely.
Time for budget talks
What makes a good deal? Fortunately, most kids are expert Googlers. Before they click for the checkout button, work with them to search for competing prices and to balance the value of the newest version of the computer or sneaker they’re eyeing vs. last year’s model.
Set up greenlights
Set up greenlights to control how much your kids can spend at Amazon. No shocking credit card bills. No overdraft fees. No surprises.
Back to school is upon us
For some districts, school is back in session in July. Now is prime time (see what we did there?) to think about clothes, supplies and electronics your kids need for the next year.
Bring kids into the conversation. Set a budget for each child and talk with them about Amazon deals fit into that budget.
Pro tip: Scary Mommy will be live blogging the best back to school Amazon Prime Day deals next week. And we’re on the edge of our seats.
We’re sitting on some great ideas on how to bring kids in on back to school shopping without getting in the way. Stay tuned – more on that topic over the next couple weeks.
Haven’t joined Greenlight yet?
Let Kids Manage Their Own Budget
The sooner kids realize the value of dollars spent, the quicker they’ll catch on to the importance of saving. When they have to make decisions on whether to spend or save their own money, they consider the trade-offs they are making. Kids learn a lot from managing their own money, and the sooner they get started the quicker they’ll learn.
Teach Kids about Saving
Greenlight provides a suite of tools to help create teachable moments around saving. Show kids their Greenlight Savings Account and explain how to make saving a habit. When they start earning some money of their own, encourage them to save some of it. You can allocate portions of allowance payments to Savings, to instill smart money management.
Teach Kids the Importance of Giving
One of Greenlight’s most unique features is Giving. Within the Giving tab of the app, kids can put their own money aside to donate or make a purchase for a nonprofit of their choice. Instilling this thought leadership when they are young will instill good prioritization in money management later on.
“It’s great that we can allocate a certain amount to ‘give.’ My daughter was so proud she had money to donate to kids in our district who struggle to purchase school necessities.L.M.
Kids are tough. Shopping for foods they’ll eat, making lunches, getting them to do their homework, getting them up and out the door on time, and getting them to put down their tech and go outside can be challenging. One of the biggest challenges we as parents face when it comes to kids is getting them to eat healthily.
This is a guest post by DiAna Kelley, founder of the Giving Me Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that teaches strategies about monthly budgeting, credit, and financial retirement to teenagers and young adults in order to create healthy financial lifestyles.
Earlier today, Amazon announced a new feature that will allow teens to shop online within their own accounts, while letting parents either approve every order or set pre-approved spending limits – all under one Prime account.
Guess which topic most parents say is easier to explain to their kids than the birds and the bees, death or politics?
You guessed it: Money. A whopping 77 percent of parents can talk more easily about finances with their kids than they can other challenging topics.
That’s good news on the financial front. It means money isn’t a taboo topic in most U.S. families, according to a new survey by Wakefield Research for Junior Achievement and the Jackson Charitable Foundation. The Children’s Financial Literacy Survey included 500 children, aged seven to 10, and their parents.
Other key survey findings:
- 77 percent of parents believe the best place for kids to learn personal finance basics is at home. Good thing, since only five U.S. states (Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia) require high school students to take one personal finance course in order to graduate, says Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have zero personal finance requirements in their high school curricula.
- Parents think kids should learn about money as young as age five, and by age eight, on average. Many kids begin to start understanding the connection between numbers and money in kindergarten (“Five pennies is the same as a five-cent nickel.”). By age eight, kids may understand that money is exchanged for goods and services (i.e. to buy stuff).
- 92 percent of parents save money—for emergencies, college tuition, and retirement. Good on you, parents! You’ve got the most important savings goals covered. Of course, we don’t know how much the surveyed parents are saving. But hey, any savings amount is a good thing.
- 82 percent of kids earn allowances from parents for doing chores, getting good grades, doing homework and doing good deeds. Learn more about the pros and cons of connecting allowance to these accomplishments.
Of course, all is not rosy when it comes to kids and money. Many of the young survey respondents showed they have a lot left to learn about finances. But hey, the oldest kids surveyed were only 10. They’ve got time:
- 33 percent of the kids surveyed haven’t yet been taught how to get or earn money. Uh oh. Is that a sign that it’s time to talk about extra summer chores for pay, parents?
- 41 percent of kids don’t know how to spend money. Even kids as young as 10 can begin making some simple spending decisions. How about having your kid help pick a birthday gift (with a maximum dollar amount) for a friend? Or choose how to spend their souvenir money during your summer vacation?
- 47 percent of kids haven’t learned how to give money to help people. An easy fix: Many parents use the “three-jar system,” (or some version of it.). They require their kids to split their allowances three ways: Spending, saving and donating. This way, giving money to others becomes an automatic habit. Be sure to let your kids help decide where their donations will go.
- When asked why they think people put money in a bank, only slightly more than half (53 percent) of kids said “saving it so they won’t spend it.” First, banks and credit unions are almost invisible to kids, since parents don’t physically visit branches anymore. You could make a point to drop into your bank or credit union occasionally, or look online for kid-friendly videos like “Roles of a Bank” from CashVille Kidz.Just as important, though, is explaining to your kids how banks, budget categories and savings accounts make it easier for them to separate their spending money from savings.
- Only 25 percent of kids surveyed know you can earn interest on savings. Interest can seem like a tricky topic to explain to kids, for sure. How about sharing this “Schoolhouse Rock” classic to help make the concept clear?
For more about the survey, along with other kids, work and money topics, visit Junior Achievement’s website.
(photo courtesy © Paul Hamilton cc2.0)
We’ve been using Greenlight Cards with my 8 and 10 year olds for about five months now. In the early days, the kids were overjoyed just to have cool looking cards with their names on it and my wife and I were pleased with the convenience of easier management of requests to buy Pokemon cards on Amazon.com or little games on the app store.
Over these past few months, however, I’ve realized the questions coming up and the conversations happening are much more meaningful long term for these kiddos than simply having plastic with their names on it. Here are three of my favorite talks we’re having on a recurring basis that wouldn’t have happened without the Greenlight Card.
What’s the difference between a debit and a credit card?
It started when we were checking out at the grocery store, and I let one of them buy his own “cool new pencils” using money on his Greenlight card. The keypad at the checkout asked him “Debit” or “Credit, ” and I told him to press DEBIT and then type in his PIN. He was happy to comply, but later in the car asked me, “What’s the difference between credit and debit?” This started our conversation about how using a debit card means you’re just transferring money that you already have to the merchant, whereas if you were using credit, you were actually borrowing money (for a fee of course) that you promise to pay back later. I explained to him that he’d need a few more years of “practice” demonstrating good decisions before having the privilege of getting real credit from me or anyone else!
How does gratuity work?
We love to eat out in our family. Friday night is Taco Night at Verde in Atlanta, a tradition that both the kids and parents love dearly. I usually will ask the boys if they have their Greenlight card and, if so, I’ll transfer money to their card (using my phone) so they can handle the bill. This is especially fun to watch because, of course, they had to be explained the process. First, you review the bill to make sure it’s accurate. Then you give the waiter your card so they can go swipe it. (I told them the waiters are going to find out if they have any money on the card!) Finally, what comes back is the receipt they will need to sign and add gratuity to.
We’ve had spirited debates occasionally about whether we had good service (earning the waiter sometimes 16-18 or even 20%!), or poor service (which might get them down as low as 12-15%). This exercise usually is also accompanied with some stellar math practice too. I confess, this Dad is usually only as much help as the calculator on my iPhone.
Side note: I’ve detected a pattern that is a life lesson for all of us. The most common indicator of “good service” by my kids is how often the waiter or waitress smiled at us. If they didn’t smile (but nailed the service), the kids have a hard time saying they deserve a big tip, but the times we sit with empty water glasses for half an hour but get a big smiling apology, the boys will usually argue that the service is awesome.
Contributing to the family with chores in exchange for an allowance.
My favorite new lessons learned lately have been around the importance of contributing on a regular basis with day-to-day tasks around the house. In return for this contribution, they receive a small allowance, calculated by their age.
Before allowances, my boys were constantly angling to make deals with me like: “If I do X, can I earn $5?” This bargaining went on so much that it became an argument to get the basic household tasks done. This is why we started an allowance. We made a short one-page contract with each of them that outlined the chores they were expected to do as often as possible and these were covered by the allowance. Any extra projects they could find to help out around the house that wasn’t on that list were fair game to make a deal (e.g. Help mom clean out the attic for $5).
Having the “automatic chores” for “automatic allowance” has been amazing. And it even works!! As a tip for other parents, here are some of the chores that have worked well for both the 8 and 10 year olds:
- Set the table before each meal.
- Make the drinks for each person.
- Load the dishwasher.
- Empty the dishwasher and put away things you can reach.
- Make your own lunch before school.
- No screen time in the mornings or before homework is done in the afternoons (not a chore, but seemed worth putting in writing to make life easier).
- Take the trash out whenever asked, without complaining!
- Roll the trash cans to the curb on Wednesday nights and empty ones back to the house Thursday.
- Make your bed every day (eh, not so much, but once in awhile it happens).
- Hang up your towels after showers.
- Sweep the kitchen when asked.
I think our favorite part about this system has been the expectation that these are done WITHOUT COMPLAINING. You parents know what I mean. Sometimes, it’s easier just not having them to do a job so you can avoid another argument. But I suppose because we were so explicit when we came up with this system about the “no complaining” rule they actually heard it.
Plus, just like us adults, they like seeing that weekly allowance hit their accounts as well!
At some point, your kids have probably watched you:
- Mumble under your breath (or louder!) as you work on your April taxes
- Gripe about how much tax disappears from your paycheck
- Make a not-so-nice comment about sales tax added to your purchases
Taxes can be an irritation, for sure. However, it’s also important to remember—and to help our kids understand—that a lot of our tax money goes to helpful services from which we all benefit. Here are some ways to help your kids understand just what taxes are all about:
Play the “Who Pays For It?” Game
Keep the tax concept super-simple for young kids. Whenever you see a fire truck whiz by, or pass a favorite park or community swimming pool, ask your kids: “Who do you think pays for firefighters to help us?” or “Who pays for our swimming pool to stay clean and have lifeguards?”
The answer is “Us! Everyone who lives in our town helps pay for those great services and places. A little bit of the money we make from our job is automatically paid to our city/county/state. That money is called ‘taxes.’” (Now, don’t you feel a little bit better about paying taxes when you think of the money that way, too?)
Create a Family Tax
Financial expert Neale Godfrey, president and CEO of GreenStreet Commons, suggests a Family Tax as a hands-on way to help middle-school and older kids start understanding taxes. When you give your kids their allowances or pay them for extra chores, require that a small portion of the money (maybe 5%) be set aside in the Family Tax jar. You (the grownups) may want to add some funds to it, too.
Every few months, make a point of spending Family Tax money on something that benefits everyone in your tribe. One suggestion: A family pass to the pool, zoo or local science museum. The idea is to help your kids see that taxes do useful things.
Review Your Teen’s Paycheck
Once your kid starts working, taxes will quickly become a reality. They’ll undoubtedly wonder why they’re losing so much of their paychecks to taxes. At this point, Godfrey suggests explaining a bit more about tax brackets, Social Security withholding (FICA) and more. A few sites that might help: IRS Understanding Taxes and IRS Tax Form Simulations.
By the way, unless your teen is making a ton of money (check IRS Publication 929), you might want to help them fill out a W-4 form. That way, they can claim that they’re exempt from federal and local taxes (line 7). The result: your teen will be able keep more money from their paycheck and not have to wait for a tax refund in the spring.
However, your kids should fill out tax returns even if they don’t owe the government any money. Read more about At What Income Does a Minor Have to Fill Out an Income Tax Return?
(photo courtesy © Chris Potter cc2.0)