When was the last time your kids heard a store cashier ask, “cash or credit?”
In today’s ever-increasingly cashless society, it feels like actual dollars and cents have gone the way of the dodo. Whether you’re in the checkout line at a big-box retailer, grabbing a snack from a vending machine, or even reserving your spot at a parking meter, it’s more likely that you reach for a plastic card — or even your smartphone — than dole out actual bills and coins to make a purchase.
And you’re not alone. The most recent Federal Reserve Payments study found that debit and credit card transactions grew by 7.6 billion from 2015 to 2016, a 7.4 percent increase year over year. And it’s estimated that by 2019, almost half of purchases currently made with a debit or credit card will be made using online or mobile payments.
With all this swiping, dipping, and scanning, it’s no wonder that some kids have little financial knowledge. After all, they rarely see their parents writing a check to pay bills. And financial dad-isms like “Money doesn’t grow on trees” and “Am I made of money?” might be the closest fathers come to having “the talk” — the money talk, that is — with their children.
In spirit of Father’s Day, we gathered valuable insights from real-life fathers on how to teach children to save and invest their money in an ever-increasingly cashless society. Here’s what they had to say.
Lesson #1: Put real money at stake.
Young people crave instant gratification and immediate tangible results, so use this to your advantage when teaching money skills, says Emmanuel Modu, father of two and author of “Teenvestor: The Practical Investment Guide for Teens and Their Parents.”
Have your child set aside money in a savings account for something she’s wanting, whether it’s a video game or a trip to the amusement park. In the meantime, if she repeatedly asks for a pair of the latest sneakers or a new cell phone that she didn’t budget for, withdraw some of her savings to pay for it. “Practical lessons are infinitely more important than any money talk,” Modu says.
Lesson #2: Instill the value of a dollar.
During the week, teens spend countless hours on the practice field wielding expensive sporting equipment. On the weekends, they grab burgers and fries and catch the latest superhero movie with their friends. But do your teens really know how much their extracurricular activities cost? Help them set up a monthly budget and track their expenses, says Rich Hagen, father of two and President of Ally Invest.
In time, they’ll be able to see where their money is going. (We bet they’ll be shocked by some of their expenditures!).
Lesson #3: Save for a sunny day.
My mom taught me to save, save, save, says AJ Jain of Olathe, Kansas, a winner of The Ally Big Save. But the money that you stash away isn’t only for financial emergencies. “You may need it not just for a rainy day, but sunny days too,” he explains. Jain and his wife forgo spending on themselves so they can spend on things that brighten their kids’ futures, like activities in math, piano, robotics, and chess. “We save as much as we can [because] we want them to pursue the highest education they can,” he says.
Lesson #4: Don’t shy away from real world financial concepts.
Giving your children a small allowance for unloading the dishwasher or cutting grass teaches them that “work earns them a paycheck.” But that’s not where their financial education should end, says Hagen.
As they get older, demonstrate that money doesn’t have to be intimidating by teaching them about saving for longer-term goals and related concepts like compounding interest. Open a checking or savings account and manage their money digitally alongside them using your bank’s mobile app, like Ally Mobile.
Consider matching anything they save with five cents on the dollar (like an employer matches 401(k) savings), so they can watch their money grow. Read more about the best savings accounts for kids.
Or, help them buy stocks and mutual funds through an investment custodial account, suggests Modu.
Lesson #5: Involve them in big-picture financials.
Soon enough, your young adult will be handling his money matters with little to no input from you, so why not involve him in financial decisions now? Encourage him to actively participate in financial aid discussions as you plan for college expenses, says Hagen. Share with him how you’re going to trim your expenses to pay for his education and ask him how he’s going to do the same.
And since he’ll be inundated with credit card offers at college, walk him through your own credit card statement before he heads out. Make sure to point out the APR and the minimum payment pay off period, as well as explain how interest is calculated and adds up.
Even if your kids end up always choosing credit over cash, you’ll be confident that they’ve received a top-notch financial education instead of just a handout from the bank of dad and mom.
Start your child’s financial education early by downloading this bedtime story: “Planet Zeee and the Money Tree.”