The Other Literacy…Financial Literacy

We all know that literacy, the ability to read and write, is an important life skill.  It’s so important that we often create an environment at home to reflect this.  We start reading to our kids from an early age, years before they know how to read themselves.  We surround our kids with all kinds of reading materials from books, to magazines, to newspapers, to grocery lists. 
 
And then, to underscore the importance of reading even more, we read in front of them.  Yup, we pick up the newspaper or magazine and absorb the words on the pages while our kids are watching.
 
When they begin to read on their own, we ask them questions about the plot and characters. 
 
At school, monthly book orders are sent home and assemblies bring in authors who talk about how they write their books.  We even reward kids with stickers on classroom charts or refrigerators at home reflecting pages read. 
 
It’s hard to grow up in an environment such as this and miss the message that reading and writing is important.  

The Money Connection:   There’s another type of literacy which is just as important that isn’t quite as integrated into our environment.  Financial literacy.  Simply stated, financial literacy is the ability to effectively and comfortably deal with issues relating to money in a way that benefits us.  It’s important for things such as budgeting, understanding credit, and investing.  

We need to be just as passionate about our kids learning financial literacy as we are about teaching them reading and writing literacy.  But since financial literacy in the elementary and middle school curriculum is not where it should be, we’re going to need to do double-duty at home.  Without obsessing about money, this simply means that we need to be aware of opportunities to sneak in a few life lessons.
 
Here is a starter list of ways to create an environment where learning about money is simply a natural part of your everyday routine, thus underscoring its importance: 

1. Talk about money from an early age – how it is earned, how there is a limited supply, the importance of making good spending choices, how to be a good consumer, etc.

2. Just like a book is the tool we use to teach kids how to read, money is the tool we use to teach kids how to become good money managers.  Give your kids money on a regular basis (an allowance is the most popular way) and then have them be responsible for their discretionary spending.

3. Create a list of extra jobs kids can do around the house to earn additional money.

4. Share your savings goals with your kids and have them create their own.

5. Have tweens and teens keep track of their spending in a registry so they get an idea of where their money goes as well as learn how to keep a running balance.

6. As an incentive to get your child to save, offer to match their savings dollar for dollar.

7. Always look for teachable moments, such as being out shopping, to tie in important money ideas.

Kids learn to become good readers through reading.  By the same token, kids learn to be good money managers through doing money.  Providing your kids with money to manage and initiating on-going money discussions at home will help build the financial foundation so necessary for success in today’s society.

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