Valerie Mills

Managing money is one of the most critical skills we must master to function effectively as adults. Yet, although public schools address the subject of money using math examples, teachers just don't have the time for personal finance tutoring.

So, just who is really responsible for this critical education?

PARENTS can teach their children "money" lessons as soon as they can count. If you neglect this area, your toddler may reach his own conclusions about where money comes from. He may decide it does not grow on trees; instead, it comes from an ATM (Automated Teller Machine).

Does your child expect you to buy her all kinds of goodies every time you go shopping? Or have you created a "budget" (sometimes referred to as an allowance) for such items?

If your family suffers a crisis such as job loss, accident, or a natural disaster, will your older child understand the financial consequences? Or does he still think that the electricity fairy magically turns on the lights for free?

If you have not taught your teenager certain money lessons, his first paycheck may be a big surprise. After all, \$8 per hour for 40 hours is \$320 in your pocket, right?

As your kid's primary financial coach, you can show your toddler, young child, teenager, or college-age "adult" child the value of managing his own money. You may find that you are such a talented teacher that your child opens her own profitable business and supports you!

What Are Some Easy Ways to Teach Your Child?

Toddler

Your toddler can learn to count money as soon as he can talk. Show your child a few coins and introduce simple math facts. He'll learn the vocabulary and the facts if you make it a game. But a word of caution: discourage them from putting the coins in their mouths!

Middle Childhood

Suppose you're in a restaurant having breakfast, just you and your child. Give him a reward if he can estimate the total bill to the nearest dollar. Hints are allowed!

Teenager

Provide your teenager with a challenge to figure out how much it costs to run the car every month. Both of you may be surprised!

Before your kid marches off to college, show him your credit card statement. Have him calculate the total amount if it were NOT paid for a few months.

How Do You Know If You're Successful?

You'll see the signs that the financial genius is developing in your child. There will be glimpses of recognition that your child understands how money works.

The real payoff comes when as young adults, they handle financial issues confidently based on prior knowledge and experience. You have successfully raised a financial genius.

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