Kids & Money

How to Talk to Kids About Money From a Teacher

As a teacher, I talk to kids about money and financial literacy. I teach 12-to 14-year-olds about personal finance in middle school. The money topics include discussing the household budget, debit cards, credit cards, money habits, and making a financial decision. These are valuable lessons and important conversations about money. 

However, it can be quite challenging teaching kids financial literacy skills in this age range. If you have children, you know first-hand how challenging it can be to talk to a child at this age. 

When I talk to parents, they recognize the importance of the subject and will often ask me about tactics I use to make the topic relatable. Today, I want to share my steps and rules that you can use to talk to your children about money.

I developed 3 effective steps that focus on having money talks with children. I call it “Keep it SER”.

Keep it Simple

More than likely my students will only really remember 25% of what I teach them. Checking accounts, debit cards, credit scores, stock market, and investing are heavy subjects for a middle schooler to understand.

So how do you keep the attention of a kid who watches 30-second TikTok videos? You keep it simple. 

There are 3 rules I follow: 

  1. Search for a life that will make you happy. Have goals that you are working towards. Kids are dreaming big at this age. So, use that imagination as an opportunity to connect financial skills with achieving dreams.
  2. Save because life is full of moments. Be upfront about both unhappy and happy moments, planned and surprised events. The financial lesson here is to save more than you spend.
  3. Invest, to be free. Teach kids about money goals and financial freedom early. The simple lesson is about investing towards retirement.

These are three simple rules. It’s easy for kids to understand. Whatever lesson I give or subject I talk about, I always bring it back to one of these three rules. To be honest, it works well with the parents I talk with too who ask me about family finances and money matters.

Keep it Emotional

Teenagers are emotional beings and let’s be honest so are a lot of adults. If you really want to be able to get through to your preteen/teenager you must create an emotional connection to the subject. Believe me, money is an emotional subject. So it’s easy to do. 

For example, when I talk to my students about the importance of creating financial goals, I lose them almost immediately. But when I talk about the subject in terms of what a happy life would be to them, I see a small spark of interest. If you teach through emotion that spark can ignite their curiosity and make the kids talk about personal finance.

I didn’t always understand the importance of this rule. I had to learn the hard way that teenagers relate to emotion, not logic. So, when I first tried telling my students about the importance of having 3-6 months of salary saved, I could see their eyes glazing over. 

When I start off with a story, my students lean in to hear. For example, I’ve shared with them how I quit a job to spend three months with my mother after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I immediately created an emotional connection to the subject. Then they’ll ask about how I was able to quit a job and this becomes an opportunity to tie in a savings lesson. 

Emotion is powerful and relatable, so, remember this rule when talking about money to kids. Keeping it emotional is more important than all the practical reasons you think are so vital.

Keep it Real

Best selling personal finance expert, Jason Vitug’s advice is to be financially vulnerable with your partner. I believe we need to be financially vulnerable when talking to kids about finances.

My third step is to keep it real. Have money talks with kids in a direct and honest way. If you do that most middle schoolers will open up.

I could talk for hours about the importance of building a rapport with middle school-aged students, but it’s just about keeping it real. You must talk to these 12-14-year-old kids like they are adults. Be real about how money affects our lives. 

Ever since I started telling my own kids about my financial failures, such as almost being evicted from my previous apartment, they have been listening to me.

When I talk to my students about investing towards retirement or financial freedom it just isn’t relatable to them. So I keep it real. For instance, I’ve asked students if they believe their parents are happy or unhappy with their jobs. Most of my students will raise their hands to indicate their parents are unhappy. While keeping it real, the kids would share how they are afraid of ending up unhappy. So, this becomes a lesson around the topic of investing. See rule #3 (invest to be free). The kids tune in with the lesson when I’m real.

I hope these steps were helpful. Next time you chat with your child, try and use this process to help you talk to your kids about money. Remember, keep it simple, emotional, and real. And you’ll come to find your kids listening to you even if they are on their phones.

Editor note: Are you uncomfortable talking about money with your child because you’re not a financial expert? Read this article on the basics of personal finance and see which path to take on the road to financial wellness.

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