National Teach Children to Save Day

One of the most valuable lessons you can teach a child is the importance of saving. With April 22 designated as National Teach Children to Save Day, there’s no better time to start or reinforce this important practice. This annual event, sponsored by the American Bankers Association since 1997, promotes education to students in grades K-12 about budgeting, saving, recognizing needs versus wants and how interest makes money grow.

According to a recent National Foundation for Credit survey, just 55 percent of adults give themselves a good grade in their knowledge of personal finance. In additional, according to Bankrate, approximately 3 in 10 Americans, or 28 percent, have no savings set aside for emergency expenses.

Building a habit of saving money doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time and diligence, and many adults have yet to master it. Consequently, our next generation’s financial literacy needs attention immediately. Developing good saving habits as a child creates a foundation for a lifetime of saving and teaches money management skills that prepare them for a solid financial future.

Here are some actions you can take to get your child – and perhaps yourself – on the right track:

  1. Help them understand the difference between wants and needs. Teaching kids to differentiate between wants and needs is the building block of the value of saving. If you don’t have a household budget, this is the perfect time to develop one and share it with your child. With this in hand, explain that needs include the basics, like food, shelter and clothing, and wants are the extras – once the basics have been met.
  • Let them earn their own money. Allowing your child to earn their own money, via a weekly allowance for chores around the house or getting paid for other side jobs (e.g. helping the neighbor with yard work, washing their car, etc.), helps them to become savers. This also teaches them the importance of earning, saving and where to spend their money, as well as helps them learn the value of hard work.
  • Help them establish savings goals. Just being told to save money without a “why” will seem pointless to a child. Having a savings goal, for example, wanting to buy a certain video game or toy, will help them figure out how long it will take, based on their savings rate, to reach this goal.
  • Provide a place to save. Once your child has established a goal, now he/she needs a place to put their money. For younger kids, this can be piggy bank. But, if they’re older, this is an opportune time to help them set up their own checking or savings account. With either option, provide them with a journal or register to help them keep track of the progress they’re making towards their savings goal.
  • Provide interest as a motivator. Like adults, children are motivated to set money aside not only by achieving a set goal, but also by earning interest. While savings accounts today offer very low interest rates, you can provide additional incentive for your child by being the banker, so to speak, and providing an established interest payment, based on their savings balance, or a matching contribution every month.
  • Help them account for their spending. Realizing where their money is going will be an eye-opening experience, like it is for most adults when developing a household budget. Have your child write down their purchases (in their journal or register), as they occur, and adjust the balance. This will help them have a better understanding of how they are spending their money as well as how much faster they could reach their savings goal if they change their spending habits – practicing delayed gratification.
  • Allow them to make mistakes. Putting your kids in control of their money also gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Although it’s tempting to step in and steer your kids from financial mistakes, in the long run it’s better to use the mistake as a teachable moment. Learning from their financial mistakes now will help them avoid potentially costly mistakes in the future.
  • Talk about money and lead by example. In a recent T Rowe Price study, 44 percent of the parents indicated they’d never discussed long-term investing with their kids and 10 percent of these parents said they had zero savings for retirement, emergencies, college, or other financial goals. If you want your child to know about saving and become a saver, you must lead by example by keeping the money conversation ongoing and being a saver yourself.

Although Teach Children to Save Day only occurs once a year, there are lessons to be learned, by parents and children alike, all year long. So, take the opportunity that April 22 presents to lay the foundation for a bright financial future for your child and yourself.

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