Money Milestones for the Ages

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When it comes to money, we don’t magically wake up one morning and have our brains filled with financial knowledge. It’s a learning curve, hopefully started early so we grow up understanding the importance of the monetary system and the responsibility associated with it.

While different children grow and mature at different rates, experts at have created a generic timeline for how and when you might tackle the subject of money with your child(ren).

Age 3
Who likes to wait? It’s not at the top of many lists, but when it comes to money, it’s a must-have virtue. We need patience when it comes to money in the form of delayed gratification. This is a good age to preach the importance of patience. How does your child respond when he doesn’t get something he wants right away?

Try this: Tell your child he can have a cookie now, or two cookies in 15 minutes. Encourage him to delay gratification by waiting for the two cookies.

Age 4
Counting comes in good use in a number of ways. This is a good time to introduce basic counting as it connects to money.

Try this: Start by giving your child a mixture of coins. Have her count them and identify them (dime, quarter, etc.). After learning all the coin names, add more and have her separate them into like piles while counting them.

Age 5
There may be no tougher word to say and practice than “no.” This is the age when many kids start school/kindergarten and face the new sensation of peer pressure. Now’s a good time to head that off at the pass with a strong underlining of the word, “no.” Tell your child that you can’t buy everything you want. There comes a time when you must choose what’s more important to you.

Try this: The next time your child sees some things he wants, make him choose one. Be sure he knows that it takes money to buy things, and you can’t always buy everything you want.

Age 6
Many experts recommend age six as a starting point for an allowance, with a rule-of-thumb amount equal to one dollar per years of age. This means if the child wants something just for fun, she can save for it herself.

Try this: Start a weekly allowance. Your child must now use these funds to purchase any fun items. Explain to her the idea of saving a set amount from each allowance that will go toward a prized purchase.

Age 7
Astronaut. Policeman. Teacher. These are some of the more common answers given when a child is asked what he wants to be when he grows up. Now’s a great time to discuss careers and working for a living. It’s good to instill positive thoughts about working, such as working at a job you love while making money to buy the things you need and want.

Try this: Have your child draw a picture of his dream job. You draw a picture of your job and what you do. Explain what you do, why you chose that profession, and why you like it.

Age 8
The simple addition and subtraction of a household budget should be fairly understandable to your child at this age. Take the time to explain how the money comes and goes in your household, how your job provides it, and your bills take it.

Try this: Make bill paying an event with your child. Show her how money comes in and goes out. Let her help add/subtract the ledger.

Age 9
O.k., kids have a grasp on the concept of saving money for the things they want by now, so it’s time for the real nuts and bolts. It’s time to open a savings account! This is an official kick-off to good saving habits.

Try this: Open a savings account with your child and explain the basic concept. Tell him you’ll take him to the credit union to make deposits. You may even consider matching his contributions.

Age 10
Credit cards. As we all know, there’s good and bad involved with credit cards, depending on how we use them. Your children will most likely hear about them in school, so you’ll want to be sure to clue them in on what they are and how they’re used.

Try this: Remove all the cards from your wallet and give a thorough explanation of each, debit, credit, etc. When you’re out shopping, let your child know what you’re doing to make payment (perhaps let her swipe the debit/credit card). Explain the receipt and the concept of debt and repayment.

Age 11
At this age, it’s all about NOT being noticed and fitting in. Many times that means having the “cool” things as dictated by stuff the child sees on TV. Your job is to be sure your child knows it’s all advertising fluff with little substance.

Try this: Thumb through a magazine with your child and discuss all the different product brands and offers. Explain how companies pay a lot of money to have an ad in a magazine to try to convince you to buy their products. Do the same while watching TV.

Age 12
Puberty is just around the corner, if it hasn’t already arrived. Growing maturity means growing responsibilities, which should include making wise decisions regarding purchases. Your child should know the difference between knowing/buying quality products versus cheap products.

Try this: Take your child shopping and compare a cheaper, unknown product versus a quality, reputable product. Explain the difference in pricing. Many times you may pay less for a product but get less use from it while a quality product may cost a bit more but give you much more use.

Age 13
The stock market can influence the economy, and therefore you and your child. Be sure he’s familiar with the basic concept of stocks and their place in investing.

Try this: Print a historic graph of stock market gains and losses. Explain how the stock market is for long-term investing and has ups followed by downs and downs followed by ups.

Age 14
Here comes more independence! Your child is likely hanging out with friends, needing a bit more money than a simple allowance provides. Introduce the concept of work. Cutting lawns. Babysitting. Stress the freedom associated with having your own money.

Try this: Emphasize the relationship between time and money. Use her babysitting job as an example. Making X dollars an hour, it would take Y hours of babysitting to buy a sweater costing Z dollars.

Age 15
Teens are starting to get very busy with school and extracurricular stuff. Stress could be developing, and many times when things get too stressful, finances suffer.

Try this: Call a time out. Set aside some time with your teen. Explain that everyone becomes overwhelmed at times. Help her set up a schedule that can make it easier to meet obligations, or discuss eliminating things to free up more time.

Age 16
You have a savings account in place for your child, now it’s time to open a checking account and underline the responsibility of such an account.

Try this: Bring your teen to Vantage and open a joint account with him. Although you’ll be a joint owner, stress to him about the consequences of overspending. Let him write checks for any expenses he has, then help him balance the account each month.

Age 17
Credit is a big part of adult life. Explain the concept to your teen. A bad credit rating can really affect his financial life. Get this across before bad habits develop.

Try this: Look up your credit score and explain to your teen how good credit can be created by paying bills on time, paying off credit card charges every month, etc. Discuss how a person’s credit history can affect how much he pays for things like loans and insurance, and how bad credit can even make purchases such as an auto or home impossible at all.

Age 18
You’ve already discussed credit, now bring in the concept of loans. Your teen may be heading off to college, so a lesson on loans (student or otherwise) can be timely.

Try this: If your teen is heading off to college, sit down and discuss student loans. Both you and your teen should understand the terms of any loans before signing on. Develop a solid plan for saving money while in school to help pay off the loan. For loans in general, stress the importance of paying account minimums, and if possible, more than the minimum.

Developing good financial habits can reap huge benefits for kids as they grow into adulthood. Likewise, bad habits can put them in a hole that’s hard to escape. You can make it easier for your children if you take the time to offer them timely financial insight on a regular basis.

Don’t forget, Vantage offers free Money Matters financial education presentations to area schools and community groups. Suggest this free service to your school’s teachers. Or, to schedule a presentation if you’re a teacher yourself, call 314.298.0055 or 800.522.6009.