[NYPT Fall 2018]

By Kimberly Boettcher, Financial Education Manager, Mountain America Credit Union

Kids are incredibly perceptive—some of the most powerful things they learn come from the words and actions observed in everyday life. We all want our children to enjoy life to the fullest. Teaching life lessons as they grow up will help them to become financially successful adults. Let’s look at how we can turn everyday moments into teaching opportunities.

1. Careers
“I’m not good at anything.”
Talk to your child about areas in which they excel. Are they good at art? Do they participate in STEM activities? Are they a good friend, great at organization, a hard worker? Find opportunities to encourage their abilities and help them identify career opportunities.

2. Family life
“Why does Emily have to go to the babysitter after school?”
Take this opportunity to talk about family choices. Discuss why your family has made the choices they have with marriage, children and work. Describe the financial implications of those decisions.

3. Home ownership
“I hate that I always have to mow the lawn.”
Talk to your child about how having a private back yard and lawn to play on is a benefit. Mention how other families choose to live in an apartment or townhome where a landscaper maintains the yard, but the area is shared with neighbors.

4. Auto buying
“Your car always breaks down. Just get a new one.”
Don’t let your emotions get the best of you here. Talk about how buying used cars may require more maintenance but have less initial expense. Share why saving up to buy an affordable vehicle is a benefit.

5. Health and wellness
“Why do you get up early to exercise?”
As parents, we can sometimes forget to emphasize the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of your body is likely to help you avoid expensive health problems in the future. Teach children about the unseen costs of healthcare, such as deductibles and co-payments and payroll deduction.

6. Utilities, internet and cell phones
“Why won’t you let me use cell phone data?”
Children need to understand the costs and options of running a household. Do you have cable or use streaming services? What about cell phone data—is it unlimited or by gigabyte? What is your strategy to keep track of electricity, heat and air conditioning costs?

7. Entertainment and dining out
“I love eating at this restaurant! Why can’t we eat here all the time?”
When appropriate, let you kids get involved in planning nights out, vacations and other family events. Help them understand the expenses involved with travel, eating at a fast-food restaurant versus a sit-down restaurant, and various kinds of entertainment. This will help them learn why these activities are special occasions.

8. Budgeting and saving
“I want an iPad; all of my friends have one.”
This is a great time to discuss opportunity cost—giving up something now, so we can have something better later.
Parents and caregivers have such a profound effect on children. Don’t wait until they earn their first paycheck to teach them money management. If you do, you’ll miss out on these moments to help them learn key principles that will serve them well for their entire lives.