We live in a capitalistic society. Many say this with a sigh and a shake of the head, but there are some upsides that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you start early enough, it is possible to rise to unfathomable heights of success. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to destroy your credit and your life quite early in the game by not having a clear conception of how to manage your finances.
American young adults and children are notorious for their lack of financial know-how. In a society that practically forces you to get a credit card when you turn 18, this ignorance can be deadly. Here are five ways to teach your children how to excel in a competitive economy and to avoid the pitfalls along the way.
1. Teach the idea of financial self reliance early on.
There are times when everyone could use a helping hand, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With that said, there’s nothing wrong with teaching self reliance as a preferred choice. From a very young age, help your child differentiate between needs and wants. If the thing they’re asking for constitutes a “want”— assuming you can/will give it to them in the first place— set up a system where they can work to earn it. Even if “working for it” only means doing extra chores for a couple days, they’ve learned that work is necessary and beneficial.
2. Learning about compound interest is crucial.
When your child first learns about interest, start to talk to them about credit. Explain the pitfalls of taking out too much debt. At the same time, open up discussions concerning investment. Show them the potential for making money if they invest early in life. Compound interest can work for you, or against you. Teenagers are more likely to be interested in these discussions than younger children, so keep the conversations age-relevant.
3. Teach them about other financial perspectives.
Every society and individual family has a unique financial policy. Discussing other viewpoints allows your child to pinpoint the crucial financial questions that any functional philosophy seeks to answer. Here are some examples:
“Is private property a good thing?”
“Should we allow extreme divisions of wealth?”
“How much influence should governments/companies/individuals have in making financial policy.”
Accept that you might not agree with their answers. Keep any debate friendly and informative.
4. Encourage early attempts to start businesses.
When I was 8 years old, I started a business selling golf balls and cans of soda on the golf course next to my house. These early experiences taught me the basics of running a business. This knowledge was carried into my adult life, and inspired me to become a freelance writer.
You never know how far a child’s chosen small business will take them. A close friend in high schools started a lawn-mowing business. By the time he was 18 and had graduated high school, he was able to sell the business for 500K. Now, he manages a department of 100 people in a Fortune 500 company.
5. Allow your child to enjoy the fruits of their financial success, and, if applicable, controlled financial failure.
Saving for college is important, but don’t’ demand that your child put every penny they earn from a high school job into a savings account. Help them save a certain percentage, and allow them to spend the rest how they see fit. Never feeling rewarded for your work can foster an attitude of futility.
Finally, allow them to make manageable financial mistakes. If they don’t save ahead-of-time for a desired item, it’s “ok” to allow them to go without the item. Now is the time to make small mistakes so that larger, life altering, mistakes won’t be made down the line.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of accredited online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
Photo by larbelaitz