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What Kids Should Know about Money at Every Age


siblings smiling for the camera

March 9, 2017

Although there are more than 2,000 Bible verses about money, Ecclesiastes 3:1 stands out for its simplicity in determining when to teach kids about financial stewardship: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Home is the best place for kids to learn about money. After all, parents are responsible for teaching children about the Kingdom of God and how to steward resources given to us.

Plus, most youth don’t learn the basics of financial responsibility at school. “Just five states scored an A on a recent report measuring efforts to improve financial literacy in high schools and 12 states scored an F, meaning there are minimal or no requirements for personal finance education,” as MarketWatch reported in December 2015.

But what should you teach them about personal finance – and when?

At every stage of a child’s life, there are teachable moments just ripe to translate into lessons about money – something most parents believe is their responsibility. DoughMain’s 2012 survey of U.S. parents revealed that 81 percent of parents feel it is their responsibility to teach their kids about money and savings. Except that doesn’t happen always – or even frequently. According to the 2012 Global Financial Literacy Barometer, American families talked to their kids about finances less than half of the year: only 25.8 weeks annually.

This year, you can help your children become Christ-like stewards of money by broaching age-appropriate conversations. By the time they’re adults, you’ll have raised financially literate consumers ready to spend their money – and time – on what matters most.

Plenty of online resources help break out lessons by age, including Pocket Cents  games, activities and resources for kids, parents and adults.  Plus, Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze teach parents how to raise money-smart kids in a debt-filled world in their book, “Smart Money Smart Kids.”

We’ve pulled a compilation of these ideas to help you get started and create a process that works best for your family:


Preschoolers and Kindergartners

Even kids at this young age know about money and have questions. They’ve observed you paying for items – and probably try to convince to buy things for them every time you’re at a store together. You can tap into their natural curiosity and desire for stuff, according Money As You Grow, part of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. They can learn basic concepts, such as:

  • They need money to buy things. This idea is demonstrated easily while grocery shopping, for example.
  • People earn money by working. You may want to offer them an allowance for performing tasks around the house.
  • Wants and needs are different. You can help them understand the difference and identify it on their own.
  • Wants can wait. They should delay buying “wants” until they’ve saved enough money.

Plus, every conversation about money can incorporate lessons about generosity.


Grade School-Age Youth

According to CFPB, kids in elementary school are ready to learn about the financial world. They can grasp the basics of saving, spending, investing and borrowing. This is a good time to help them set up and manage a basic savings account.


Middle School or Junior High School Students

It’s time for advanced concepts about budgeting, such as maintaining separate accounts for spending, saving and giving. says kids can start out spending 50 percent of what they earn through allowances or receive as gifts, saving 40 percent and tithing 10 percent. At this age, they can use their savings accounts to set and achieve goals, such as buying a bike or going to an amusement park. Older students can be introduced to advanced concepts, such as budgeting, compound interest and insurance.


High School Students

Let’s get them prepared to transition to adulthood successfully. They’re ready to dive deeper into advanced concepts and gain real-world experience. Money Talk News advices having discussions about the stock market and, if possible, even gifting them with some stocks so they can follow the ups and downs. The financial site also recommends encouraging them to get a part-time or seasonal job: “Getting a job not only fosters a strong work ethic, it gives teens a serious source of cash to manage. It also introduces them to the world of payroll and income taxes.” To do this, they’ll need a checking account and develop the proficiency to manage it. This step can teach them a tandem lesson about the responsible use of debit cards, how to protect themselves against fraud and avoid service fees. Also before leaving the nest, you’ll want to explore how loans work. A college-bound child applying for student loans will need this lesson especially.

When your kids are ready for account of their owns, ECCU's Start Young Savings and Spending accounts have all the tools to help you teach them how to manage money in the real world - complete with online and mobile banking, their own debit card and budgeting tools.  

Category: Common Cents