As educators and parents alike, we are largely focused on teaching children fundamental academic and social skills to help them thrive in- and outside the classroom. At the same time, however, we should also focus on helping them develop important financial and money management skills. After all, many money habits are already set by age seven. By forming and practicing healthy money habits early on, you can prepare children for a lifetime of financial well-being.
Below we’ve shared key financial milestones that children should reach at certain ages. While many of these lessons will begin at home with their parents, educators can reinforce them through engaging activities, meaningful discussions and role modeling.
Yes, even 3-to-5-year-olds can learn the value of money. At this age, they are just beginning to understand that you need money to buy things and that you earn money by working. This is a great time to teach children about delayed gratification and that there’s a difference between the things you want and things you need.
Some of the financial goals and milestones of this age range should include:
- Identify coins and bills and their value
- Understand the difference between instant and delayed gratification
- Learn about different occupations and alternative ways to earn money (ie. entrepreneurship)
- Start a “Savings Jar” to begin saving up for toys, games and other items they may want
- Differentiate between necessities and nice-to-haves, like food vs. candy
This is the perfect time to teach and reinforce money management skills. The lessons they learn now will likely stick with them into adulthood. Children this age understand how money works, and they may even start earning an allowance. During this time, most will also begin to notice the cost of different items, while also becoming more aware of advertising targeted at them.
Some financial milestones include:
- Learn simple accounting and budgeting techniques
- Make decisions about how to spend money
- Begin to compare prices in order to find the best bargain
- Open a savings account (with a parent) and learn about interest rates
The tween years are a momentous time for young people, and they bring important financial lessons and challenges. They will begin to make more independent financial decisions, as they may start to earn their own money outside of the home. With this comes a greater responsibility to smart money management, in addition to understanding how their financial habits can have an impact on others.
A few important financial milestones at this age include:
- Learn the value of working small jobs, like babysitting, yard work or car washing
- Create a budget to determine how to allocate earnings (save, spend or give)
- Make longer-term saving and spending goals
- Understand banking technology to monitor and manage money
- Recognize the value of charitable giving and donate to a special cause
From here, these young adults will begin making financial decisions that can impact their future. They may obtain their first job, explore their college and career options and even consider opening a credit card. This is a great time to reinforce important skills - like budgeting, saving and delayed gratification - while teaching new concepts such as credit management, taxes and investing.
Some financial goals for this age group include:
- Research loans, scholarships and grants to contribute to college costs
- Understand taxes and why they are taken out of their paycheck
- Learn the value of a good credit history and how to keep their score in good standing
- Become familiar with investing by opening a Roth IRA (if employed)
By promoting financial literacy early on, you can play a major role in helping children become financially secure and responsible adults. Use this information as a guide to help them make the right money decisions now and in the future.