The education system is seriously lacking when it comes to financial literacy. Hell, I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in finance AND went on to grad school and was never taught this essential life skill. Something is wrong. Children should be taught from an early age how to handle money, the importance of money, and how saving it and investing it wisely, can add up over time. Imagine if you started saving your pennies when you were a child and invested it as soon as you could how much money you would have now. Instead, most graduate with student loan debt reaching epic proportions and won’t start saving until far later in life.
Fortunately, it is never too late to learn, and if you have children, here are some great ways to teach them while having fun. Because if anything, financial literacy can be boring.
1) Play Board Games
Nothing is more fun than spending time with your family playing board games. Even better you can teach your children about money and investing while spending quality time together. Here are some of my personal favorites that I would recommend regardless if they were good for learning a thing or two.
Age range: 8 and up
Players: 2 to 8
Playing time: 60 to 180 minutes
Monopoly is a classic for a reason. As you go around the board buying up property, building hotels, avoiding jail, and taxes, it teaches players the following:
- Managing money and financial transactions
- Taxes and emergencies
- The importance of saving for a property
- Basic financial math skills
- Improving real estate to get better value
The games can get intense so be ready for some friendly banter, or some good old fashioned smack talk.
Age range: 12 and up
Players: 2 to 6
Playing time: 90 minutes
Acquire is a mergers and acquisitions themed board game that teaches the basics of stock trading while keeping the experience fun and interactive. Each player is trying to strategically invest in businesses to retain a majority of stock for the biggest payout. As your business grows with tile placements, they start to merge, giving the majority stockholders bonuses which can then be reinvested in other companies. The game is a race to acquire the greatest wealth. I played this numerous times at family gatherings and it never gets old. With over 17,000 reviews and a 7.4 out of 10 rating on BoardGameGeek.com, Acquire is a game I would definitely recommend.
Age: 13 and up
Players: 2 to 5
Playing time: 45 minutes
While Acquire is focused on mergers and acquisitions, Stockpile simulates the stock exchange market and insider dealing. Helping your children understand how the stock market can definitely be an uphill battle until they play this board game. With nearly 4,000 reviews on BoardGameGeek.com and a 7.6/10 rating, it’s a guaranteed good time.
You play as an investor hoping to strike it rich with the winner having the most money at the end. The concept of the game is that no one knows everything about the stock market, which is true in real life, but everyone knows something. You must consider multiple factors when choosing to buy or sell a stock, like in real life. By the end of the game, your children have learned important investment strategy skills that are not learned in the classroom.
2) Sign Up for Junior Achievement in School
Junior Achievement (JA) is one of the world’s largest organization youth-serving organizations, dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need for employment and entrepreneurship. JA annually reaches over 10 million students in more than 100 countries around the world.
They are most known for their Company Program, targeted towards those in grades 10 to 12, an after-school program through which students form companies, sell stocks, produce and market a product, and sell it in their communities and globally. After having volunteered as a mentor for over 3 years, I firmly believe this is the best program to get real hands-on experience that is lacking inside a classroom. Some of my students invented adult coloring books that they sold; another group of students sold tea gift sets, and another group sold all natural handmade soaps.
For those of younger ages, JA offers in-class courses using games and multimedia to explain money, the importance of business, and how to prepare a budget to name a few. The best part is it’s free and completely run by volunteers vetted by JA.
3) Use Commissions, Not Allowances
Using allowances can lead to kids feeling entitled to having money. Moreover, it can be hard to determine what they are getting an allowance for. Was it to make their bed? Or clean the dishes? Or both? On what days? If you have more than one child this can get overwhelming fast. Another problem is that it is hard to keep track of chores which puts the onus on parents to nag their children to do the chores.
A better alternative to allowances is using commissions for chores completed. The more chores the kids do, or the harder the chore, the more money they get, keeping the job and pay-age appropriate. Your children automatically make the connection between working and getting paid. Better yet, the nagging stops and they naturally want to do chores to make more money. This teaches them a good work ethic, and raises independent children. Less following up is a bonus.
4) Start a Side Hustle
Nothing teaches a child about money faster than starting a side hustle of their own. JA’s Company Program is invaluable when creating a team-based business but it winds down at the end of the program and it is only available for an older age group. If your child wants to branch out on their own and keep all the proceeds, then starting their own side hustle would be a great way to learn about business. I remember when I was ten years old I sold hot chocolate outside my brother’s hockey games to earn side income; you can never be too young. Alternatives can include having a lemonade stand during those hot summer days or going door to door for a bottle drive. The trick is to start something simple but feasible.
5) Birthday Gift Donations
This is a great way to teach your child the importance of investing. Whenever your child has a birthday, buy them a share of a company of their choice. Over time they can watch it grow and learn about the stock market as they go.
6) Start with a Piggy Bank
If your child is young enough, get one of those piggy banks that has a save, spend, donate, and share split; it’ll make your child think carefully where they want to allocate their money.
7) Open a Bank Account
Once the piggy bank savings portion is full, take your child to the bank and open a savings account for them. This gets them used to the banking system and the act of saving.
8) Match Their Investing Contributions
As an incentive to invest, I would recommend matching your children’s investing contribution. This activity mimics real life 401(k) matching, or RRSP matching in Canada, from their future employer and gets them in the habit to invest early and often! You have to be over the age of 18 to have an investment account, so if your children are younger, you can invest on their behalf. You can also apply this concept with donations to teach the importance of giving.
9) Invest for Them
As previously mentioned, if your children are under the age of 18, you can set up a separate investment account in your name and invest funds on behalf of your children. Every time they want to invest, you can buy a stock or the index, and they can watch it grow as they get older. As an example, if they were to invest $500 a year (about $10 a week) from the age of 5 to 15, they would have $8,616.91. If they left that money until they retired at age 65, it would have grown into $882,435 (using the average growth rate of the S&P 500). That’s assuming they never saved another dime in their lifetime. That’s the power of investing early!
10) Use Apps
Cost: $2.99 (a free lite version is also available)
iAllowance is an Apple staff favorite and has been featured by Money Magazine. It’s a powerful family finance management system to manage your child’s finances and teach him or her about saving and spending money. Some of its features include allowing you to make automatic allowance payments, track chores with push reminders, and use either money, stars or time as rewards depending on your preference.
Cost: $2.99 (a free lite version is also available)
Platform: iOS and Android
Allowance and Chores Bot makes it easy to keep track of your family’s allowances and chores. You won’t lose or misplace money and you won’t have to keep track of allowances and chores by hand. It’s great to teach your children about saving money, spending money, and earning money.
Kids can see how much they have saved and how much they’ve spent. They can also keep track of their allowance savings growth and see what chores need to be done. Furthermore, they can perform bonus chores to earn additional allowance that’s your preference.
Cost: Free ($4.99 in-app purchase for Bankaroo Plus)
Platform: iOS and Android
Bankaroo is a virtual bank for kids, helping them manage their allowance, gifts, and chore money. It uses gamification and a simple to use interface to help parents teach their kids the value of money. Both parents and kids have access to their accounts, where they can save up for goals and earn badges and parents can keep track where their kids’ money is invested. Interest is also earned on their savings.
Bankraoo Plus adds features like checking, savings, and charity accounts and gives you the ability to transfer money between siblings and between accounts.
Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed by Mr. Dumont on Money Sensei are solely his and not intended as investment advice nor a guarantee of any financial return. Mr. Dumont is not an investment or tax professional, so the information contained on the blog is not a substitute for professional advice. The contents of this blog are accurate to the best of his knowledge at the time of posting, but rules and laws are ever-changing. Please do your research to confirm that you have the current information.
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