If you want to build predicative relationships that produce income, referrals and loyalty, then start seeding your network and community with financial literacy resources and experiences for kids.
Yes. You can get current clients and groom future clients by helping to make it easy for others to teach children about money while kids are young.
By others I am referring to parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and community leaders.
By young, I mean kids 3, 4 and 5.
You want to give families every chance to optimize their success as a unit and as individuals. This means starting the financial education and compound growth processes early, when they have the most impact and can make the biggest difference. You want to shape habits and feelings—not correct them—if you are lucky enough to do so.
Let this be clear and plain for everyone to see. Let this be a testament to who you are. As Garrett Planning Network founder, Sheryl Garrett shared with me, it is simple. When you invest in kids’ financial education, it sends a strong message on exactly what you value and stand for. Championing youth financial literacy and making it easy to teach kids about money tangibly demonstrates leadership, long-term thinking and social responsibility. It shows concern for families. It signals you understand the constant pressures they confront daily when it comes to managing money, including addressing the “gimmes.”
Nothing could be more organic and authentic than financial service professionals helping address one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century: youth financial literacy. It’s a threat to kids’ futures and the stability of family life. Kids who grow up with poor money habits and money mindsets seem more likely to turn into adults with those same behaviors, attitudes and feelings. In my opinion, it is a horrific cycle to cultivate and perpetuate.
Kids Know More About Money Than You Think
Here are two things you may not know.
One, adult money habits and attitudes are set by age 7 according to a 2013 Cambridge University study.
Two, research from Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris, France reveals infants understand more than many adults think.
You may or may not believe the research. I believe it. Why? I have led financial education programs and experiences for more than a quarter million children in eight countries and nearly 40 states. I have talked to kids and the people who teach them a lot about money. What I can share with you with one-hundred percent certainty is, young kids have ideas, feelings and associations related to money.
If you are a doubter, start asking the children in your lives about money. Generate your own firsthand data on the relationship they are developing with it. Find out for yourself what we are hardwiring into their heads and hearts about this essential topic.
Do not be fooled by whether they are able to articulate cogent explanations of personal finance concepts and terms. Stay alert to what they say, think and feel about the subject. Tune in to their habits and attitudes.
What you may conclude is this is exactly the time you can be of the greatest assistance to kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and community leaders. It is precisely when the wealth builder versus spender battle is being won and lost. It is the determinative and pivotal point when you want to sow the seeds of financial freedom and security into kids’ thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns.
Be that voice and source of resources. Impart that financial knowledge for kids and families. Have them associate those memories and mindsets with you.
Here are some tips on how to go about it.
- Volunteer to read to kids. Read them storybooks with a personal finance lesson. You can do it at schools, after school programs, youth clubs, community agencies or in your office. And/or you can provide clients and community organizations with story books and other “incentives” that teach children about money. Naturally, two of our favorite storybooks are Sammy’s Big Dream and It’s a Habit, Sammy Rabbit!
- Offer parenting workshops on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can do them live or online via a webinar.
- Include a parenting tips column in a newsletter or a blog.
- Write columns for local newspapers and online blogs.
- Survey and quiz clients, prospects and community leaders on what they learned about money as children. And, do the same with respect to what they are passing on to the kids in their lives whether they be their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.
Advising Parents on Teaching Money Skills
What should you advise parents to teach young kids’ money?
Start with and stick to the basics—saving, earning, spending smart, giving wisely, investing regularly and tracking your money.
Stress saving. Here is why. Saving has multiple benefits. It’s a cornerstone upon which many other money and success skills can be taught. Saving teaches discipline, delayed gratification, preparedness, planning and goal-setting. Saving protects us from poor spending choices. Saving positions us to invest with less risk. Saving provides more freedom and choices. Saving builds confidence and character. I strongly agree with pioneering research scientist Thornton T. Munger who said:
“The habit of saving is itself an education; if fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought and so broadens the mind.”
In terms of how to teach, I strongly favor strategies that are interactive or participatory. Learning by doing is one of my favorite education strategies. Keep things simple and “sticky” if possible—in other words easy to remember. Here are a few ideas for your consideration.
- Give kids short money slogans on the core topics cited above that they can say out loud, write out, color or decorate. For example, three of my favorites are: Saving money is a great habit; earning money is fun to do; and save and grow.
- Read kids storybooks with a personal finance lesson. Have them repeat key messages and phrases out loud.
- Have kids play store, practice shopping and making change.
- Have kids write out grocery lists. Or have kids make check marks on grocery lists.
- Have kids organize and stack coupons.
- Play personal finance games with kids.
- Have kids make their own personal savings jar.
- Sing and color with kids. Sammy Rabbit has several toe-tapping tunes that are available for free on Spotify and YouTube like: “Get in the Habit,” “S-A-V-E,” and “Lemonade Stand.”
If you can help ensure kids master these topics you will have set them up for financial success in life. Those are the kinds of relationships and memories everyone values!
Sam X. Renick is an award-winning financial educator, children’s author and songwriter. He is the driving force behind Sammy Rabbit and his Dream Big Read financial education strategy. You can learn more about Sam and Sammy at SammyRabbit.com.