In my time working as a bank manager, I found that even many adults don’t know much about how their finances work. I’m starting my kids with early lessons on some of the most important financial concepts. If you have kids, make sure you teach by example and instill these lessons so your kids can thrive with their finances in the future.
1. Know your bank account balances
When I was around 5 years old, my mom took me to a local bank to sign up for a kids’ “Dinosaver” account. In addition to a toy dinosaur to take home, the bank was the first place to send me something in the mail every month. While I’ve gone paperless these days, I still keep tabs on my account balances on a regular basis.
I generally only added to my savings account and loved seeing the few cents of interest added to the balance in addition to deposits around my birthday and the holidays.
These days, my bank accounts often have multiple transactions per day, but I always know my balance within a hundred dollars or so. You can teach your kids to do the same.
2. Understand how credit cards work
You can’t get a credit card until you’re 18, but you can ruin your credit in a few months in a way that takes a decade or more to fix. If you pay with plastic regularly, you have plenty of opportunities to teach your kids how credit cards work.
My oldest knows that when I buy something with a card, it uses money just like the kind I have in my wallet. I have to pay for it from my bank account before the end of the month so I don’t have to pay interest. This concept is easy to understand but may be challenging in the real world. Teaching your kids to follow good credit habits can save them a fortune in interest in the future.
3. Build an excellent credit score
If your kids know how credit cards work and use them responsibly, they are unknowingly building good credit. But rather than go into it blind, you can teach your kids how credit scores work so they can qualify for the lowest interest rates and best accounts. It may mean the difference between being able to buy a home or not when they decide it’s time.
The biggest factors in your credit score are your payment history and your credit balances. Those two components alone make up over half of your credit score. My dad also put me on track to good credit at a young age when he made me an authorized user of a card “just for emergencies” in high school. I’ll pass on that same gift to my kids when they get older.
4. Take advantage of what your bank offers
When I worked at a bank, I learned about how checking, savings, CD, credit card, and loan accounts work. Bank manager classes taught me how customers can get the best experience from each account and how banks make money. As my kids get older and try out new kinds of accounts, I’m teaching them how they work.
Make sure you don’t pay any fees on checking or savings accounts. Get a credit card that offers rewards and pay it off in full every month to avoid interest. Turn on automatic bill payments and automatic savings. These are all great lessons … and strategies to follow yourself.
5. Spend less than you earn
The toy aisle at Target or Walmart is a potentially expensive proposition for parents with young kids in tow. However, I look at a toy store or toy department as a teaching opportunity. There’s nowhere better to give a lesson on budgeting.
In my banking days, I saw the perils of going without a budget when customers visited the branch asking for overdraft fees to be waived. I saw it in the collections department and credit card balance reports. If you can spend less than you earn and save and invest the rest, you’re on the right track.
Give your kids the right financial compass
You can work with a trusted bank and get a great experience, but if you choose the wrong financial products or use them the wrong way, you can wind up in a difficult spot. It’s much easier to manage your money well from the start than start on the wrong foot and fix money problems.
Schools don’t teach much about money, if they teach anything at all. That means it’s your job to make sure your kids know how to handle their money. If you’re a parent, it’s never too early to get started.