Teaching your child about financial literacy at an early age isn't as tricky or out-of-reach as you may think. Learning about financial literacy from childhood can be life-changing. It also has the potential to set your child up for financial success earlier rather than later in life. The good news is it doesn’t take expensive literature and courses to achieve this. If you have social media accounts, you are likely no stranger to the plethora of online classes and webinars being sold. If you are like me, you are probably skeptical of them, especially when they claim to offer a level of success that seems too good to be true. Skepticism is reasonable, but investing in yourself and your child is better, even if you risk the course's cost. When I am undecided about whether to make a self-development purchase, I always remind myself that I regularly spend money on things that won’t help me develop, whether those are shoes, coffee, cigars, etc. Surely I can spare a few dollars to potentially make a better me and give my child a competitive advantage in life. In my mind, if I learn a minimum of one thing of value from a course or book, then that investment was worthwhile. I have purchased countless online courses and e-books over the years, and I feel that I have learned something from all of them. That’s a win by all accounts.
However, one thing I have noticed over the years is that these courses are geared toward adults. As a family man, I always ask myself, what about the kids? I have been teaching my son about financial literacy since he was in third grade, and I plan to do the same with my first grader when she enters third grade. Before I started teaching my son, I always questioned whether he was old enough to comprehend what I wanted to teach him. I finally concluded that children are sponges. Although he wouldn't likely understand everything I said, he would retain some of it, and I could build on that. With time and repetition, I could expand his knowledge base and sharpen his insight. You have to start somewhere, right? My goal is to expose my children to the world of financial literacy early. In doing so, I believe and hope they’ll be ahead of their peers in this discipline. We attempt to give our children a competitive advantage with everything else from an early age: sports, religion, music, you name it. Why not financial literacy? I’m basically trying to give them a competitive advantage. Now, this advantage really won’t start bearing real fruit until they become an adult, but they'll be light years ahead of those around them, and that's something you can’t put a price tag on, nor can it be bought.
I didn’t grow up in a household where finances were discussed. In fact, I grew up in a single-parent home where my mother struggled to keep a roof over my two siblings’ and my head. I have always had a business mindset, but I didn't start learning about real-world finances until my early twenties, mostly through trial and error. My guess is that’s how most of us learned about financial literacy—by trying and failing. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By most standards, I have done well for myself, and I escaped the fierce grip of poverty. Yet, I can't help but imagine where I would be in life now financially if financial literacy had been embedded in my childhood. What financial hardships could I have avoided along the way? What would the value of my brokerage accounts be? How many cash flow producing assets could I have now? Through this thinking, I decided to expose my children to financial literacy in small bites. The objective is to help them avoid common financial mistakes and develop a financial literacy mindset twenty-plus years before the average person does. Some of the information, lessons, and activities you present to your child they will gravitate to, and some they will not. But that's okay. We are merely planting seeds here. Regardless of the financial success I have achieved thus far, I know enough now to see that I would be further along in life financially if this information had been implemented in my upbringing.
Even if, as a parent, you feel that you aren't a subject matter expert, you can learn with your child. My goal is to encourage parents to start the financial conversation early and maintain that conversation. It is the repetition that will connect the dots for your child.
Remember, the goal here is exposure at an early age. We’re just planting seeds, folks.
I want to stress that every child is different. Some children may gravitate toward this information, while others may see it as a chore at first. Nevertheless, stick with it. Press on the gas or let up on the gas as you see fit; just be consistent with it and know that every moment in life is a teachable moment. Take breaks if necessary. My son saw learning this information as a chore initially, and his interest was mild at best. However, we explore financial literacy in small bites, and it is a consistent conversation in my household. When we first started, I knew my son would prefer to play video games in his free time. However, I made sure he understood my goal is to give him an advantage in life by investing in his financial literacy at an early age. While grades are essential, passing grades in history and English won't benefit your child much in adulthood. So even if your child doesn’t fully grasp a particular subject initially, for example, the concept of dividends, if they learn what a ticker is, they are well on their way.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because your kid gets good grades—or maybe because they don’t—this information is unnecessary or out of their reach. Also, don’t assume these topics are taught in school, because they are not. The way children are taught today is an outdated model from the industrial age, and we continue our factory-model education system to this day.
Financial Literacy is well within your child's scope of understanding. I recommend you approach this from a specific viewpoint with consistent, in-depth conversation and hands-on experience. I’m trying to get you to discuss financial literacy in your home the same way you do sports, religion, music, and other popular topics. We are trying to rewrite the narrative here and set our last name up for continued success as long as this earth is spinning.