How to inculcate financial literacy in children

It is never too early to start teaching children about money. However, to get it right, make it fun to build interest through games and activities. [iStockphoto] 

Financial knowledge for most of us while growing up was a rare discussion. It was simple; money was for grown-ups, period. Over the years a realisation dawns of the importance of financial literacy at an early age. Many of us might have made different choices if we had been equipped with the knowledge to make informed financial decisions early on.

Parents and learning institutions often focus on teaching children essential life skills such as reading, writing and curriculum courses. However, one crucial skill that is sometimes overlooked is the knowledge required in decision-making regarding personal finances. Understanding the value of money and the importance of budgeting, saving, investing and managing debt are skills that can benefit one throughout their lives.

It is never too early to start teaching children about money. However, to get it right, make it fun to build interest through games and activities. Children can begin to understand basic concepts such as the difference between coins and notes. They can best relate to everyday situations to introduce these ideas, such as shopping and paying for a meal. As they learn addition and subtraction, concepts like payment and change become more meaningful.

Children learn by example; it is important to model good financial habits. Let them see your budgets, savings plan and you making responsible financial decisions based on taking debts, loans and even credit cards. Explain your thought process and involve them in age-appropriate ways, such as letting them help with grocery shopping and comparing prices. Explain the money cycle, needs and wants as well as what it means not to have money.

Saving is an important habit to instill in children. Each time you give them pocket money, encourage them not to spend it all, let them think about buying something they need, which could be a toy, a new tablet, or a phone cover case. This helps them set saving goals and understand that saving money can lead to greater rewards in the future.

Budgeting is a fundamental skill for managing money effectively. Children can best relate when they can differentiate between a need and a want. With this knowledge, they can prioritise their list when the time comes for them to independently make decisions.

When explaining investing to children, use appropriate language for their age and level of understanding. For the younger ones, use simple terms and concrete examples. For instance, let them imagine they have a magic jar where they can put some of their money. When they put money in the jar it is like planting a seed, you water the seed by adding more money over time. After a while, just like the seeds grow into beautiful plants, their money in the jar grows too. It is making your money work for you and grow over time.

As they get older, you can introduce more complex concepts, such as stocks and bonds. Most importantly, explain the benefits of investing, like earning interest, or dividends. Explain how investing can help them achieve their financial goals faster and provide financial security in the future.

Teach children to be smart consumers by comparing prices, looking for deals and avoiding impulse purchases. Once the lessons have been taught, create environments for them to take on financial responsibilities. Give them a small allowance and encourage them to budget it. This will help them learn about the consequences of their financial decisions in a safe environment.

Ms Achieng teaches at Crawford International School

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