15 Ways to Instill Good Money Habits in Your Children (or Grandchildren)

April 11, 2022

Instilling good money habits in your children can impact their money management habits in adulthood, but also those in future generations. So, in a world where parenting is arguably the most difficult job on the planet, and talking about money is considered a social taboo—how can parents successfully shape good financial habits in their children?

Here, Mercer Advisors parents explain how they’re instilling smart money practices into the next generation.

1. It’s Never Too Early to Consider Your Approach

This isn’t something I’m teaching yet because he’s still so little, but when I was growing up my dad constantly talked to me about these three things:

  1. Only live within your means.
  2. Do not get into credit card debt.
  3. Start contributing to a Roth IRA as soon as possible.

Kristen Comeau, Regional Vice President and mother of one (age 1)

2. Help Them Discover the True Joys of Life

My husband and I knew early on that we wanted our children to realize that the joys of life should not come from “stuff,” but from relationships and helping people. So, when my children were in elementary school, our family tradition was to request no gifts at their birthday party. Party invitations would read “Your presence is the best present of all. If you would like to bring a little something, we are accepting donations to XXX.” One year, we were able to sponsor the setup of a braille book for children; now children from all over the world can order a Cam Jansen Braille book from the Foundation for the Blind in Arizona.

Susy Gibo, Senior Regional Sales Associate and mother of three (ages 13, 15, and 17)

3. Define Needs Versus Wants

One challenge my wife and I face are the constant questions: “Why can’t I have this?” “Why can’t I have that?” In return, we try to frame many conversations around purchasing items based on needs and wants. By evaluating both, they learn that they can feel secure in meeting all their “needs” first and be comfortable in not getting all their “wants.”

We also try to establish a sense of awareness of their actions by talking to them about using scarce resources like energy and water. We discuss leaving lights on in their rooms and how doing that impacts electricity costs, fossil fuels, and climate change, and we have the same conversations about leaving water faucets on and how precious fresh water is.

Bennet Thonakkara, Sr. Wealth Advisor, Director, and father of three (ages 11, 7, and 4)

4. Be A Good Steward of Your Wealth

My goal was to show them how their “wealth” could provide more than sodas, snacks, and video games. For several years, I would match their charitable donations to a charity that provides international humanitarian aid. I wish I had done more of this and been more consistent in providing everyday examples along their journeys to adulthood. Try not to shy away from conversations about your wealth and find tangible ways to show your family how being a good steward of your wealth can benefit others.

Geoffrey Franklin, Wealth Advisor and father of two (ages 21 and 18)

5. Save, Give, Spend

When my youngest was little, we set up three jars labeled “Save,” “Give,” and “Spend.” She would get an allowance each week and have to put 10% into savings, 10% into giving, and the rest into the spending jar. If she wanted something small, she would use the money from her spending jar. If it was a large purchase, she could use both her spending and savings jars. I would tell her I would pay a percentage, say half, of the large purchase and she would have to save up for the rest. The best part was letting her pick which charity she wanted to donate to and why. This welcomed a lot of conversation on discovering a need and taking an interest in giving toward that need.

Jamie Block, Sr. Wealth Advisor, Director, and mother of two (ages 12 and 20)

6. Encourage Them to Invest and Let Them Learn From It

When our kids were in high school, we gifted them some money to invest in three individual stocks. They learned the fundamentals of investing, the impacts of market volatility, and the nuances of different investment products.

Mary Hoskins, Client Service Specialist and mother of two (ages 25 and 27)

7. Instill Entrepreneurship

How many times do you hear “Mom, will you buy this for me? Pretty please, Mom?” With four daughters in tow on my regular Target run, I constantly found myself being bombarded with this question. So, I decided to equip my kiddos with the skills they needed to buy what they wanted themselves—cue the classic lemonade stand.

The girls bought their supplies with a loan from Mom and Dad, marketed their product and pricing, and even made transactions easy by adding a Venmo QR code. They were thrilled to be serving customers, earning money (and tips), and sneaking the occasional quality control Gatorade sample. They learned about supply and demand, cost control, customer service, profit margins and also about giving and saving—but most of all, they had fun. Now when we go to Target, instead of begging me to buy something, they consider the value of the items they want and contemplate if it is worth the price of their hard-earned money.

Laura Combs, Managing Director and mother of four

8. Embrace Technology—With Money Management!

We live in an increasingly digital world, and it’s becoming more important than ever to teach our kids how to use money electronically. My kids are too young to really grasp the digital concept yet, but I am constantly brainstorming ideas on how to teach them to manage money digitally.

Laura Cuber, Wealth Advisor and mother of two (ages 5 years old and 4 months old)

9. Establish Solid Principles to Help Achieve Financial Independence

I made it a point to convey the following principles to my children as they began their quest to achieve financial well-being:

  1. Pursue a career that will not only provide a comfortable living, but one in which you are passionate and that will contribute positively to society.
  2. Establish and maintain good credit and know the difference between good debt and bad debt.
  3. Save and invest early in a Roth IRA and/or company 401(k) Roth account; take full advantage of company matches.
  4. Diversify your investments across and within asset classes; rebalance annually.
  5. Stay disciplined in managing your investments and don’t get caught up in fads or reacting to “head-line news.”
  6. View money as means to an end, not an end in itself, and think long and hard about choosing worthy ends.

Barry Cohen, Sr. Wealth Advisor and father of four (ages 31, 27, 27, and 25)

10. Resist the Urge for Instant Gratification

It’s easy to tell your kids to save money, but without life experiences or practical methods to do so, it may not happen as early as we like. Teaching the importance of saving is even more difficult these days since you can order anything with the click of a button On top of that, many transactions are done digitally so the tangibility of money is not quite there. The instant gratification generation is real. Because of this, we built our learning around a pre-set credit card for kids, which helps them learn to manage and save money.

Jennifer Searle, Local Marketing Manager and mother of two (ages 24 and 11)

11. Continue Building Their Financial Knowledge

Working in the financial industry has taught me how uneducated and unaware even the smartest people are about money—I want to make sure that doesn’t happen with my children. Since I want them to have the opportunity to do whatever their hearts desire, they will have to learn to plan for the money they need.

Haana Frank, Associate Financial Planner and mother of two (ages 2 and 4)

12. Give A Gift of Purpose

After our kids graduated from college, we began giving them funds at Christmas in lieu of gifts. We separate these funds into two buckets. The first bucket is for immediate use while the second bucket is reserved only for major goals and purchases in the future (such as a house or car). Also, the second bucket is not funded for that year unless they volunteered community service or charity hours for a worthy cause.

Dan McDermott, Sr. Wealth Advisor and father of three (ages 30, 27, and 25)

13. Don’t Be Afraid of Losing Money

I will pass on to my kids what I learned and value from my parents: Zero risk will always come with zero rewards. Always consider investing in the things you believe in and are passionate about.

Jojo Cresci, Wealth Advisor and mother of one and currently expecting (age 2.5 and due in June)

14. Consider College Plans and Expenses

We will cover half of the tuition cost for a school anywhere in the nation for four years using money saved in their 529 plans. If there are any additional funds needed, they will pay for it themselves. If there are any funds left over at the end of the four years, it is theirs to keep and spend as they wish.

Matt Cook, Managing Director and father of three (ages, 14, 11, and 6)

15. Continue Guiding Them in Adulthood

My kids are grown adults now, so the conversations are very different. I talk to them about saving for an emergency cash reserve fund, budgeting for home improvements, contributing to their IRA, and about employer retirement plans. We also discuss good debt and bad debt. I recently sat down with my daughter, who is a first-year teacher, to create a plan to invest in her 403B plan and pay down a small student loan. We assigned a place for every dollar and any extra cash.

Tracey Turko, Sr. Wealth Advisor, Sr. Regional Director, and mother of two (ages 32 and 27)

We want to hear from you! What are you currently teaching your children about money, and do you feel you’re doing it successfully? Is there a certain area you’re struggling with? Head to the Mercer Advisors Facebook page to share your stories and questions today.

We know teaching your children about money isn’t easy—it takes time, practice, and patience. But, by talking to them now, you could not only have a powerful impact on your child’s financial stability and future, but also on your family’s future generations. We’re here to guide you through the challenges of your family’s generational wealth: To learn how Mercer Advisors can help you impact your family tree, contact an Advisor today.

Mercer Advisors Inc. is the parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved with investment services. Mercer Global Advisors Inc. (“Mercer Advisors”) is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.

All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Some of the research and ratings shown in this presentation come from third parties that are not affiliated with Mercer Advisors. The information is believed to be accurate but is not guaranteed or warranted by Mercer Advisors. For financial planning advice specific to your circumstances, talk to a qualified professional at Mercer Advisors.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any investment portfolio.

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