Over the past few years, I’ve had a strong desire to start teaching kids about money. This is one area of our society that fails miserably and it is a complete diservice to the next generation. After speaking to adults who are having money problems in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, one resounding thing that sticks out to me is they all say they wish they would have known more about financial responsibility when they were younger. They watched their parents fail at the money game all their life and didn’t know any better which led to them taking on loads of student loan, credit card, auto loan, and mortgage debt. The idea of keeping up with the Jone’s became a part of life and they are usually left with some sort of resentment that the system failed them at some point and now they are stuck with debts they feel are impossible to pay off.
As a police officer, the same seems to be true with crime. Kids grow up in broken homes where they are surrounded by things such as domestic abuse, parents who are criminals, alcholism, and drug abuse. Being surrounded by these types of things throughout their childhood makes them much more likely to do all the same things when they become adults. These types of behaviors in the home also lead to poor performance in school, a lack of will to succeed, and a blight outlook on how life is, and the opportunities that are availble in our society.
My solution to this problem was to bring the ideas of financial independence, financial literacy, and fiscal responsibility to these kids in the classroom. My problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to do it. In order to teach this topic in a school you generally need to have a teaching certificate and a degree in finance which I don’t have. I ran the idea in my head of even going back to college just to get another degree to be able to spread the word to these kids who so desperately need it. This would entail about another $20,000 in tuition I would have to take on, not to mention countless hours of school work, studying, and student teaching all while still working my full time job as a cop.
Luckily, I found an alternative. While listening to a ChooseFI podcast I was exposed to an organization called Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement is a non profit organization that has been bringing the message of financial literacy and career sucess to students in grades K-12. As I was listening I realized they are doing the exact type of work that I have always wanted to pursue and it turns out they are looking for volunteers to spread the message.
I immediately signed up to be a volunteer and was put in touch with operations managers in Chicago who were able to find opporuntities that fit the type of message I was trying to bring to these kids. So proudly I announce that I will begin teaching my first class this week and plan on sharing my experiences with you on how it goes. If you are at all interested in volunteering or learning more about Junior Achievement check out their website here:
Outside of teaching finance in a classroom, there are still many more opportunities to share the ideas of financial literacy with kids. As a child, one thing I took pride in was having my own savings account. This gave me drive and motivation to build up my savings with the small amounts of money I earned here and there. This is one great way to get your kids interested in the idea of saving. Also if they want to make a purchase, have them use their money which will show them directly how their savings amount will go down based on purchases they make. This makes the idea of spending more tangible and lets the idea of spending vs savings kick in.
Other ideas are creating an allowance for tasks around the house and then making a homemade bank account in which you agree to pay your children interest for the savings they amass. By giving them an interest rate of lets say 10% you will show them again how their money can grow if they keep it invested.
Encourage your children to get jobs while in their teens. This will teach them the value of having to work for their money and will also give them a taste of what working in adulthood will be like. Throughout my teens I worked three different jobs all of which taught me life lessons and helped me network with people and be exposed to what the real world is all about.
Think twice before giving your children handouts they may not appreciate. One thing I like to advocate is having your children pay their own way through college. This for me was a huge life lesson and pushed me to go to community college first to lower my college expenses. When all was said and done I appreciated my college experience more and had to keep up with tuition by working part time during my college career.
Finally the most important way to teach your children about money is by leading by example. Children will want to emulate your habits and they are always watching you and analyzing every move you make. By showing your kids that you are responsible with your money, having talks with them about the importance of saving, and leading a life that is non materialistic, you will be providing them with an education that will stick with them for a lifetime. Providing our children with a strong foundation of financial responsbility is arguably one of the best tools we can give them to improve their lives.
I ask that you help me in spreading the word on this, even if it just a simple talk with a family member or friend. Let’s stop making the conversations about money so private and open it up to everyone no matter what their age. The best time to have this conversation is now and no one will benefit from it more than the children in our society. Thanks for reading.