The kids are back in classes, and the learning is off to a good start (right?). Between the math homework, pop quizzes and history lessons that just don’t stick, it’s easy to forget about some of the lifelong money lessons your kids have right in front of them at home. Not sure where to start? We’ll give you a headstart with five fun ones!
Money lesson #1: You’ll have to make decisions with your money.
This one’s easy for grownups because we make decisions all the time. But kids are still learning the ropes of decision-making. Start small. Explain why you choose to spend money on groceries instead of takeout. Or clue them in on why you chose to buy one car over another. Eventually, they’ll start making tradeoffs on their own.
Show, don’t tell: Get your kids a Greenlight login and send them money for spending and saving. The next time they ask you to buy something at the store, tell them they have a choice to make in their Greenlight app!
Money lesson #2: Money comes from hard work.
The earlier kids can understand this, the better. Psst, we’ve got an idea. Set them up with chores and choose whether or not an allowance works for your family. Believe it or not, pulling out the vacuum or washing the car actually helps your kids become more responsible. Just ask Marty Rossman, who researched the impact of household chores at a young age. She found the “best predictor of young adults’ success” was their involvement in household chores at a young age.
Make chores fun: Turn on some music and come up with a fun name for your kids’ chores in your Greenlight app.
Money lesson #3: Compound growth helps you grow your money.
Ever heard of the marshmallow experiment? You know — one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later? Your kids can learn about compound growth in simple terms like this. If you save and invest at a young age (even if that means spending less in the short term), it’ll pay off in the long run. Big time.
Incentivize your kids: Pay your kids an interest rate on their savings. Setting Parent-Paid Interest lets you decide how much you want to give, from 0-100%. The average rate for Greenlight parents is 18%. Start here and raise it as they save more. Spoiler alert — they will.
Money lesson #4: You are your own money managing boss.
One day, your kids will be budgeting, saving for their dream car and making big decisions with their money… OR they can get started right now. To get them in the habit, encourage them to put money toward savings goals or try Greenlight’s Round Ups to send extra cents into savings. They’ll get the hang of it — and yes, they’ll get that dream car much sooner if they start young!
Let them take the reigns: When they’re managing their money, they might have a hiccup every now and then. That’s okay! They’re learning while they have you to coach them. Talk about those hiccups and learn from them together.
Money lesson #5: Money doesn’t grow on trees (but really!)
Okay, let’s be real. How many times have you told your kids that money doesn’t grow on trees? It’s one thing to say it, but for them to learn it, they’ll need to see it in action. When they’re constantly borrowing money from you (especially cash), they don’t have a full grasp on spending and saving. To them, it’s just their parent’s bank account — which may seem endless.
Get the ball rolling: Give them their own debit card (a la Greenlight) with money set aside for different expenses: restaurants, gas only, general spending, you name it!
That’s a wrap! Now you know how to make chores fun, get a debit card for your kids and set an interest rate to incentivize saving habits. And hey, these aren’t just money lessons for kids — you might even learn a thing or two about managing your money!
You did it. You celebrated the birthdays, packed lunches for soccer tournaments and survived the endless conversation about Minecraft. Congratulations, Moms and Dads — you’ve made it through 2019.
As we look toward 2020, allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of financial literacy – YOU! The hundreds of thousands of Greenlight parents teaching their kids the value of a dollar and the art of making smart trade-off decisions.
In 2019, Greenlight kids did 1.8 million chores and collectively managed more than $150 million. But that’s not all.
Looking toward 2020
In 2020, we’ve got big plans to improve the Greenlight app and add more features for your kids to learn the full-spectrum of money management.
We’ll be weaving more educational layers into the Greenlight app, making it fun (and painless!) for kids to build smart earning, spending, saving and giving habits.
Our team is also building tools for kids to learn all about the world of investing, with a new suite of features that allow kids to invest in multiple funds and even buy fractional shares from their favorite companies.
Our single most important job is to support you – the parents doing the hard work. Together, let’s make 2020 the Year of Financial Literacy.
*Data captured from Greenlight families based on activity from Dec 2018 to Nov 2019. Average monthly spend calculated only for kids who spent.
Julie Lythcott-Haimes, author of How to Raise an Adult, gave a TED Talk in 2015 about setting the right priorities for your kids. She quoted the Harvard Grant Study (only the longest longitudinal study ever conducted) which concluded “professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid.”
We think chores are important too, which is why we launched a set of chores features in the Greenlight app in February of this year. Since then, we’ve actually had Greenlight families tell us that their kids have asked for MORE chores after instituting a routine.
When is the right time to start chores?
All families are different, and all kids are different. A chores routine can start as early as “getting clothes to the laundry basket” in preschool years.
Back-to-school season is a great time to talk about getting back into routines, and asking your kids for input on what tasks need to be done. Another great time is birthdays, recognizing that with age comes new responsibilities.
Which chores do I choose?
Of all Greenlight families, the five most popular chores are:
Clean your bedroom is the most popular chore for all ages. Read is popular for younger kids, under the age of 10. Take out the trash heats up for children over 12 years of age. And wash the dishes is most popular around 15-17.
Some other personal favorites from the editor: pick up after yourself, scoop the dog poop and be nice to your brother. “No cussing” has also been a fan favorite around the Greenlight office. A special shout out to the parents writing their chores in ALL CAPS. But we digress…
On average, Greenlight families institute 4.41 chores per child, and recurring chores are by far more popular than one-time.
Here’s a helpful guide from the moms of Sunshine and Hurricanes with kid-friendly chores from preschool through 10 years of age.
Do I pay my kids for chores?
A recent T. Rowe Price survey on parents, kids and money saw that 51% of parents give their kids allowance, but the kids have to earn it.
Ron Lieber, author of Greenlight staff favorite The Opposite of Spoiled, advises not to give allowances in exchange for chores. He says, “Allowances ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”
Chores teach accountability and responsibility. Allowances tangibly teach the practices of budgeting and saving. (More on allowances over the coming weeks.)
There are experts and Greenlight families, on both sides of the fence of this debate. We encourage each family to make decisions based on what will work best for them.
- You may institute a chore schedule that includes standard tasks (like cleaning up bedrooms, doing laundry or walking the dog), and incentivizes more high-value tasks with monetary rewards on a less-frequent basis.
- You might consider an allowance to be regular payment for jobs well done. If the clothes are piled up on the desk instead of on the floor, little Sophia’s room still isn’t “clean” to mom’s golden standard.
- You can tie chore completion to allowances. If the trash isn’t taken out, floor isn’t vacuumed and the dog poop isn’t scooped, you won’t get your allowance this week.
Whatever your chore routine, Greenlight can help you stick to it
With features like flexible scheduling and linking chore completion to allowance, Greenlight has helped thousands of families implement a routine.
Set chores that repeat weekly, or multiple times a week.
Or set one-time chores for bigger tasks like spring cleaning, babysitting or mowing the lawn.
Kids review and check off their chores as complete.
Review the chore schedule and manage scheduled payouts.
Don’t have Greenlight yet?
Many self-employed parents have no idea that it’s absolutely legal—and a great tax move—to hire their own kids to work in their companies. Better yet, it’s a great way to help your kids develop a work ethic, teach them some basic work skills and encourage them to work for their spending money.
As kids’ year-end report cards start coming home, many parents are considering this question: “Is it a good idea to pay our kids for doing well at school?”
In many parts of the country, it’s traditional for kids to spend a week or two—or even a month or two—away at summer camp. Each camp provides parents with packing lists. However, some of them aren’t regularly updated or are provided by idealistic camp directors rather than real families. In addition to the basics, here are some things experienced parents say are essential for kids to take to sleepaway camp:
- Fewer clothes than you think: Yes, your kid will need basics ranging from shorts to rain jackets. However, when they’re away from home, most kids wear a few of their favorite clothing items over and over. Help your kid pack enough so they can deal with different kinds of weather and have enough clothes to make it to wash day. But don’t overdo it.
- Replaceable items from home: A stuffed animal for comfort is great. Just make sure it’s not your child’s one-and-only lovey—in case it gets lost or damaged. Photos of family members, friends and beloved pets can also help cheer up homesick campers.
- Helpful gadgets: Consider sending your child with a battery-powered clip-on book light (flashlights get awkward to hold), a clip-on fan for some fresh airflow and disposable cameras for taking pictures.
- Shower helpers: For simplicity, give your camper a bottle of all-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner. A small water-friendly tote is great for helping campers schlep gear to the shower. Sew small loops (ribbon or bias tape works great) on towels and washcloths to make them easier for your camper to hang them in the shower room and near their bed to dry.
- Zip-top bags: They’re great for storing items like cards, camp keepsakes and other items in your child’s bunk area. Larger bags also come in handy for keeping a change of clothing dry when your camper goes on kayak trips.
- Spending money or debit card. If the camp allows it, it’s nice for your camper to be able to buy items at the camp canteen or in a nearby town, according to the American Camp Association (ACA). The Greenlight card may be safer for campers than cash and prepaid debit cards. Why? Cash can be lost, stolen or spent outside of your agreed-upon spending plan. Campers can’t withdraw cash or get cash back from their Greenlight Card. And if your child loses a prepaid debit card, it’s as good as losing cash. If your child’s Greenlight card is lost or stolen, you can quickly lock it and block purchases.
- Postcards, paper, pre-addressed envelopes and stamps: Most camps now have a “no electronics” policy. This means your child may not be able to bring a cell phone to call or text you. This can be a great thing. Not only will your phone-free child be able to focus more fully on camp activities, you may also receive a few of those beloved, old-style letters from camp!
One last tip: If possible, have your camper all packed two full days before they leave for camp. This packing tip is borrowed from travel writer Rick Steves. Advance packing gives your camper some time to really relax before taking off for camp. It also gives both you and your child a couple of bonus days to remember any last-minute items you’ve forgotten to pack!
(photo courtesy © Camp Pinewood cc2.0)
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)
The weather is improving and the school year is starting to wind down: It’s prime time for teachers to plan school field trips.
If your kids are heading out for a day trip with their class, their teacher may send home a list of items to pack. However, experienced parents know that those lists often cover just the basics. Here’s what your kids really should bring on a day trip:
- Backpack or string bag: This pack should be a bit smaller and lighter-weight than their everyday school backpack. Be sure your family’s last name is clearly marked inside the bag. Security-conscious parents suggest you not mark your child’s first name in the bag. A sketchy adult could see and use your child’s first name to suggest that they know each other. (“Hey, Jake, remember me from your dad’s work?”) Include your phone number or email somewhere inside the bag in case it gets lost.
- Cell phone (if allowed): Some schools prohibit or strongly dissuade kids from bringing phones. Instead, you may get a list of the teacher’s and chaperones’ cell phone numbers, and they’ll have your contact info. If your child takes his/her phone, consider sending them with a portable phone charger, too. The kids probably won’t have spots where they can recharge their phones during the day.
- Cash or debit card for extras: Your school may have a policy about personal money. If students are allowed to purchase extra snacks or souvenirs on the field trip, send them with a modest amount of cash or a kid-friendly debit card.
It’s a good idea to make sure your child’s debit card doesn’t allow them to withdraw cash at ATMs or get cash back (for splurges or treating their friends). Even better are kid/teen debit cards that message you before authorizing your child’s purchases.
Be sure you have account information safely stored at home or work in case your child loses their debit card. Also, make sure your child knows to contact you right away (or have a chaperone do so) if they lose their debit card. That way, you can quickly get in touch with the card issuer or use a mobile app to disable the card.
- Writing tools: Include a notebook and a pen or mechanical pencil with a clip on the side. Insert the pen/pencil into the metal spine of notebook (clip on the outside) for easy storage.
- Disposable camera: Give your child a one-time-use camera marked with their last name. You’ll develop the photos the old-fashioned way when your kid gets home.
- Wearables: Sunglasses are something most kids forget to pack but wish they had available. Depending on the weather, your child may also need a light wind or rain jacket and extra layers of clothing. An extra pair of socks is easy to carry and super helpful if it’s rainy or your kid loves stomping through any type of water.
- Refillable water bottle: An inexpensive plastic one is fine. If your child is fussy about keeping their water cold, a small, insulated water bottle is great, too.
- Packable snacks and/or lunch: If the school isn’t providing food, keep your kid’s options simple and disposable. That way, they don’t have to carry back bulky items like a lunch box or thermos.A brilliant idea: Pack your child’s lunch in one of the plastic clamshell boxes that often hold fresh fruit at the grocery store. These sturdy containers keep sandwiches and other soft items from getting squashed. Plus, your child can toss the whole container when they’re done. Need some lunch inspiration? Check out these ideas for disposable field trip lunches.
By the way, are you chaperoning a school field trip? Get the inside scoop here about field-trip volunteering, including stocking your own daypack with extra snacks, sunscreen, hand-wipes…you name it. If you actually survive taking a bus-full of kids to the art museum, planetarium or anywhere, you are a rock-star parent. Kudos to you!
(photo courtesy © Matt Stehouwer cc2.0)