Susan E. Murray

Associate Professor

Andrews University

Berrien Springs, Michigan

Summary: Author shares free resources at our fingertips to assist us in being good stewards of God’s resources

Five children in the family. A mom and dad who knew education, at its best, addressed real issues. There were no secrets about money. No ATM mentality. These kids came to academy having learned how to manage the family’s money. They knew how much money there was, as well as the values of their parents in paying tithe and offerings. These kids knew how to write checks, balance the checkbook and justify the bank statement. Wow! It should have been no surprise that they were responsible and resourceful in many ways.

Considering economic conditions, the time is ripe for parents and grandparents to actively share their money management skills with their families. Rather than filling children with fear about what they can’t have or may loose, how about getting them involved in productive ways?

Children from preschool age on can be productive money managers. They learn very early whatever we as parents are willing to teach them. Our children have an innate ability to absorb massive amounts of information, all of which helps shape their personality. You might want to think about it this way. If kids can learn healthy habits like washing their hands before dinner and brushing their teeth after they eat, then they certainly can learn the important habits of good money management.

Just ask yourself, “Would I wait until my child had all of his adult teeth before I started to teach him to brush?” It’s a habit all parents try to instill in their kids. Why? So that when they get older, they can look after their own teeth! Michael Desilva (KidsWealth.com) suggests the same analogy applies to managing their money. If they learn how to manage money when they are young, they will have that skill„Ÿand continue to hone it for the rest of their lives.

He further suggests that rather than handing out money as kids ask, and according to our present mood, that parents ask themselves, “Of all the money we have spent so far on our kids, what did they learn about money other than ask Mom or Dad?” He says that giving a kid $2–$5 a week to spend merely teaches kids to spend! He suggests that it’s when you give them an amount each month that is in direct proportion to your income and lifestyle that it will have real meaning to them.

Desilva has developed a “kids pay” money management system for families

  • 30% goes in their WEALTH Account—this is their investment account. This money is never to be spent, only invested in various ways to grow their wealth.
  • 20% goes in their PLAN Account—this is for your kids to be able to plan for and purchase more expensive items like a bike, computer, etc.
  • 20% goes in their LEARN Account—your kids use this money to buy books, educational toys and games, trips to museums, parks, zoos, travel or anything that is educational in nature.
  • 20% goes in their FUN Account—this is your kids spending budget for the month for toys, games, movies, popcorn, snacks, or treats that they buy on their own with their own Fun money.
  • 10% goes into their ANGEL Account—this is their charity account, money to be used every month to donate to charity, tithing at church or helping others in their community.

This can be used as a guideline to get you started and can be adjusted as desired. Kids need our trust, guidance and support. Will they be irresponsible along the way? Yes! Desilva suggests that they are only beginning to learn about life and how much better to make mistakes like: “Oops, I spent all my money, so I can’t get any more candy today!” than “Oops, I spent all my money, I can’t pay the mortgage and they’re gonna take my house!” Remember, the more kids are empowered at an early age by being given age-appropriate responsibilities, the more confident and motivated they are.

A major key to making such a system work is to assess how much of your income you are actually spending on your children. For many adults it’s scary to sit down and actually look at what we do or don’t have, what the total of our bills comes to, to have to make some hard choices now. Just as one of the first steps in setting up a budget is to keep track of how you spend your money for a month, so it is with this system. Children are not to be blamed or shamed for what we spend on them; but sometimes in our own frustration at how much things cost or how much more money we wished we had, we project negative messages onto our children. They do not deserve that!

So, on one hand sometimes parents are scarce in their attitudes about what to give their children. On the other hand, today there is much concern about overindulging children. Overindulging children is about more than money. It is about giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. (www.overindulgence.info)

The test of four, developed by Jean Illsley Clarke (2004) consists of asking yourself the following four questions: 1) Will doing or giving this interfere with, or slow down, my child’s learning what he/she needs to learn at this age? 2) Will giving this thing, activity or exercise use a disproportionate amount of family resources on one or more of our children? 3) Does this do more to please me than benefit my child? and 4) Does this situation potentially harm others, society or the planet in some way? Using the test of four is a powerful tool for families and can be helpful in determining what percentage of resources is appropriate to use for “kids pay” if you want to try that system.

It is estimated that American teen spending money, accumulated through jobs, allowances, “as needed” money from parents, and gifts, will increase to $91.1 billion in 2011. Twelve to fourteen year-olds have an average annual income of $2,167, and 15-17 year-olds generate $4,023. The amount of money families spend on teens for food, apparel, personal-care items, and entertainment is expected to grow approximately from $110 billion in 2006 to $117.6 billion in 2011. (http://www.marketingvox.com)

In a recent survey 67% of parents believed that financial management was not a priority for their teens, while 60% of teens said financial management is a top priority!

I invite you to consider using these resources, depending on the ages of family members:

Younger kids can focus on learning to save and on spending behavior at learntosave.com/lessons.

Third–sixth graders can check out orangekids.com.

Teens and young adults can follow the links at bankhs.com/students. You’ll also find videos, books and other resources to use.

Consider holding a weekly family-finance meeting. Visit practicalmoneyskills.com and schwabmoneywise.com for budgeting and spending ideas and games. You’ll find some good advice by going to the Children and Money link at financial-education-icfe.org. For teens, also visit handsonbaking.org for ideas.

Many financial institutions are collaborating with the President’s Council on Financial Literacy that was created in January 2008. Not only does the site provide valuable information for you, there are grade specific ideas for kids from 4–9th grades. Go to mymoney.gov.

Talk about bargains! Never before have we had so many free resources at our fingertips to assist us in being good stewards of God’s resources as we invest in the kingdom by providing our children with the best education in financial management.

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Clarke, J. I. (2004). How Much is Enough: Everything You Need to Know to Steer Clear of Overindulgence and Raise Likeable, Responsible, and Respectful Children. Cambridge: MA: Perseus Publishing. Available in English, Portuguese, Arabic, Estonian, Korean, Italian, Greek.

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July–September, 2009

Money Management