money_saving_pigGet Money Smart!

By Beth Engelman

Parents, help your kids get “money smart” with these tips from some of the area’s top financial experts.

Make Money Concrete

Susan Beacham, founder of Money Savvy Generation (msgen.com) knows the concept of money can be quite abstract for children especially in this age of ATM’s and online billing. Therefore, she encourages parents to make money concrete through books, games and imaginative play. Playing “store” with real coins or having a piggy bank can also strengthen your child’s understanding of money.

Teach Smart Money Choices

Being a good money manager means making smart financial decisions, which is why Beacham created the Money Savvy Pig. This unique piggy bank has four separate chambers that represent four different money options; spending, saving, investing and donating. Don’t have the Money Savvy Pig? Not to worry! Beacham recommends tying 4 clear jars together with ribbon to represent the 4 different money choices. Once your bank is set up, help your kids understand their choices by giving them hands-on experiences as they spend, save, invest and donate.

Saving: Encourage healthy fiscal habits by teaching your kids how to save money. Chicago City Treasurer, Stephanie Neely recommends teaching kids to “pay their piggy bank” before they even think about spending. You might also consider helping your children open their own savings accounts, which will teach them the joys of compound interest.

Spending: Help your children learn the difference between “wants” and “needs” by having them buy the things they “want” with their own money. Not only will your children learn to be more selective about their purchases, but they will also learn the art of delayed gratification.

Investing: Show your children how money can grow over time if invested wisely. You can start off by teaching the basics of investing and showing your children how to track specific stocks or bonds online by visiting Yahoo finance or dailyfinance.com. Just make sure your children know that investing can be risky. Although historically the stock market has grown over time, there is always a risk, so it’s wise to start gradually.

Donating: Encourage your children to “give back” to their favorite community organizations or charities. Just remember, they can donate their time and talents as well as their money. Beacham advocates putting the “do” in donating by inspiring children to give of themselves. For example, a child could donate his time to bring in the mail for an elderly neighbor, or collect used sports equipment for a local school. The key is make sure your children feel invested in helping others which in turn will strengthen the community at large.

Model “Money Smart” Behavior:

As parents, we are our children’s best role models so it’s up to us to model money smarts. Whether it’s talking to our children about how we budget our finances or showing them how we find the best deal on frozen pizza, we are showing them that we take money management seriously. Saving as a family is another way to model fiscal responsibility. “Money Smart Kid” Kamal Bilal, winner of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s “Money Smart Kid” essay contest advocates having a family “savings” jar where everyone deposits their spare change. His family made a point of collecting change throughout the year, which helped fund a family vacation. Now that’s what I call using your cents!