Easy ways to teach important lessons about the value of money
SMARTPHONES, VIDEO GAMES, THE HOTTEST TOYS, CELEBRITY SNEAKERS. You name it, your kids probably want it. And, of course, as a parent, you want to please your kids. But you also recognize the importance of establishing a charitable mindset from an early age.
“The question we often get from families is, ‘How do I raise generous, grounded, responsible kids?,’” says Matthew Wesley, managing director of the Merrill Center for Family WealthTM. “Philanthropy can be a core tool to help you address that.”
Roughly six out of 10 young parents say they have talked about charitable giving or volunteerism with their children, according to a November 2017 study by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.1 To start the conversation with your kids, Wesley suggests the following tips.
Generosity is a concept you can introduce as early as preschool age by teaching your children to share their toys. “Some families tell their kids, ‘If you get a new toy, choose one of your old toys and give it to someone else,’” notes Matt Wesley, managing director of the Merrill Center for Family WealthTM.
One approach many families take, Wesley says, is to have their children divide their allowances into four equal parts: to save, spend, invest, and share. You can be a role model here. Let’s say you give 10% of your income to charity—urge your children to do the same. Or encourage them to set their own giving goal.
Talk to your kids about the causes you support and why they’re important to you. Then suggest that they choose a cause they want to support,” suggests Wesley. Start by asking them to think about their own interests and hobbies. If they’re animal lovers, you can help them raise money for the local humane society. “We’ve had families that were big sports families, and they got the kids involved in supporting soccer camps for at-risk youth.” Wesley says.
Sure, you could go through your children’s closets solo to find clothes or toys to give away, but you’d be missing a valuable opportunity if you did. Instead, make this a teachable moment, suggest Wesley. Have your child help you select what they don’t need anymore, then take them along when you drop off the donation. (They’ll get a bonus lesson in sustainability as they learn that their old stuff can be useful to someone else.) If you’re buying gifts for a family in need during the holidays, involve your children in the shopping and wrapping.
If your family contributes money to certain causes throughout the year, you have a few ways to make that a learning experience, too. Let your children research and choose a cause that means something to them. Or collect everyone’s donation money in one jar and decide, as a family, what you’ll do with it. Think about which lesson you want to teach—freedom of choice, or being part of a group decision. “It depends on what skills are important to build in your family. Some families actually combine these approaches, asking each child to give separately, then giving collectively as siblings, and then making a contribution as a family,” says Wesley.
You want charitable giving to feel like an invitation, not a requirement, notes Wesley. Kids should donate because they’re truly engaged in the process. One effective way to keep encouraging them is by showing them the impact. It can help kids develop financial skills—and character. “Consider doing a site visit of the organization your child gives to,” Wesley suggests. “Set a meeting with the development director—most are delighted to offer a tour and talk about what the gifts to their organization accomplish.”