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Tips for Teaching Your Children About Money

For many parents, money is an uncomfortable subject. Discussing finances with your children is either too scary or too personal for many people.

However, a panel of experts at The 2016 Money Expo agreed that this is one of the most important subjects any parent has to manage. Preparing your children for their financial futures is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Nikki Taylor from Taylored Financial Solutions said that the earlier parents start on this journey, the easier and more effective the lessons will be.

“For me, it’s about starting them early,” said Taylor. “How do you teach children manners? You don’t wait until they are 15. You start when they are really young.”

Brand manager at Emperor Asset Management, Lungile Msibi, said that even two- and three-year olds can appreciate the lessons of delayed gratification and working towards a goal.

“Start kids when they are young with goal-based savings,” she advised. “If they want a Barbie doll, for instance, show how they can save towards that goal. That’s important because later in life they will understand that you can’t invest if you don’t have a goal.”

As they grow older, you will have therefore prepared them for conversations about investing for the long term. It’s particularly helpful if family members support you.

“When my kids were born I gave their grandparents bank account details for both of them and said instead of filling my house with toys at birthdays and Christmas, please put money in these bank accounts,” said Taylor. “My children still get toys and presents, but they also see the money in their accounts and how it is earning interest. They now get excited at every birthday and Christmas to see who has put money in for them and how much they now have.”

It’s also important to involve your children in how you are saving for their own futures through things like education plans or unit trusts that they will receive later in life.

“I’m saving for different stages of my son’s life and he knows what each of those investments are and what they are for,” said Dineo Tsamela, founder of The Piggie Banker. “He gets excited because he can see what that money means for him – that he will have access to a really great education and that he will have some financial security. He appreciates that money is not just about what it can get you now.”

Msibi said that it’s also important to teach children the impact of the choices they make. She used the example of a child who wanted a new iPhone, but his parents offered him the choice of having them invest that money instead.

“The value of an iPhone in one year or two years diminishes,” said Msibi. “But if your child rather invested that R10 000, it could make a huge financial difference later in life if you give it 40 or 50 years to grow.”

It is also crucial that parents instil a sense of where money comes from.

“You have to teach them the value of work,” said Tsamela. “It’s very important for children to understand that money doesn’t just happen – that there are things you have to do for it to come in.”

Taylor agreed.

“If my kids want anything we negotiate how many stars it will cost, and I then allocate them stars for things like good manners or cleaning a room,” she said. “They ask me why they have to get stars when their friends get things for free, and I explain that mommy has to work for everything she earns, and that’s an important conversation. Because it becomes something they have to work towards, they also have to consider whether it’s worth it or whether there is something else they want more instead.”

Crucially, this is also linked to the values we teach our children. And those values are most often conveyed in how we ourselves treat money.

“What value system do you instil in your children through the way you spend your money?” asked Kristia van Heerden, CEO of Just One Lap. “We should think about how we interact with money and what money can do for us.”

Tsamela added that parents have to think about the lessons they are teaching through how they talk about what money is and why it is important.

“Putting the emphasis on saying that you have to be rich, you have to have money distorts children’s view of how the world works,” she said. “Don’t make money the primary thing. What is primary is fulfilment and that you enjoy your life. Everything else comes afterwards.”

Importantly, parents should consider carefully what they teach their children about what it means to be successful.

“Parents need to teach their children about purpose, resilience, following their dreams and pursuing them relentlessly,” said Nonqaba Stamper from FundBabies. “If they help their children to become the best version of themselves, that is when they contribute to society and make South Africa a better place. When they see themselves as people who can add value, that’s where true success lies.”