Conclusion – My Top 10
I am going to conclude this series about teaching children and youth about money with a few final tips, a bit of a top 10 list. Some will be new but a few of the topics of this series were so foundational that they have to come up again in the top ten.
Money is the number one cause and irritant in marital disputes, the number one cause of divorce by far, and a topic God found it necessary to instruct us on far more than heaven and hell combined. God thought it took a lot of verses, lessons and parables to teach us about money, wealth and possessions. At The Idlewild Foundation we could not agree more and we think that money is a topic that parents, grandparents and even great grandparents can’t teach to children and youth enough.
Walk down the aisle of your grocery store for cereal. What do you see? The healthy cereals are high up on the shelf, especially the ones with high fiber. What’s down lower where your children, who are walking (and running) or in the cart, can easily see them? The sugary cereals they want.
At the checkout line on the adult level you see the breath mints and “news” magazines. But a little lower for the kids, you have candy! You know the drill – “Mommy, can I have just one?” or “Daddy, can I have that one for me?” That is just one of many of marketing pressures faced by you and your children every day. TV ads, online pop-ups, even billboards are flashy and designed to catch your attention. What message are they pushing? You need to spend your money on this product.
Watch TV for even one hour and you see close to twenty minutes of commercials. As holidays approach, TV commercials become focused. But your computer makes TV marketing look wimpy. What message are they pushing? You need to spend your money on this product.
Do a Google search for a product. Google analytics then sells your interest to companies selling the product you were searching for. Then, as you open a new search or even a news feed, ads from sponsored competitors start flooding your screen. As a test I ran a search for a new mattress. For weeks afterward, I received various mattress ads as pop-ups despite not having gotten a mattress ad for years before that. In fact, the only way I stopped getting mattress ads was to search for something else, which then became the subject of even more ads. Marketers buy your search information, effectively paying to know what you are interested in, and then you receive personalized ads targeted at your “interest.”
As a result, the pressures from marketing have grown at an incredible rate. Marketers now use serious psychological tools to catch and hold your attention, tools with names like priming, reciprocity, social proof, the decoy effect, scarcity, and more. See, as one of many possible examples, the article Marketing Psychology: 10 Revealing Principles of Human Behavior. American retailers, headed by the online retailer giant Amazon, are working hard to understand how you think and to manipulate you into spending more. Now, just imagine how much easier it is to manipulate a child who hasn’t experienced enough to become skeptical and cautious.
So, your job as a parent is to train your children against modern psychology and the attractiveness of “you want this now!” or “you need this now!” If you did not read through the earlier articles in this series, or even if you did, here are our top ten tips for teaching money to children and youth in a tough world.
1. Teach your children real gratitude
This may seem odd here as the first thought, but it belongs here. The art of saying “thank you” or displaying any of what used to be common courtesy at times seems to be passé. Grateful people tend to be happier because that moment of expressing gratitude is a positive break in what may be an otherwise negative thought or even day. Say thank you when you get a chance, especially to those closest to you. Smile (it takes fewer muscles than a frown!). Look for something good even in these negative times. Teach your children to end every day with thanks to God. Find three (at a minimum) things for which you as a family can give thanks for each evening. Once that evening prayer is mastered, start each day the same way! If you are truly grateful for what you have, you are far more likely to be able to resist the temptations of “you need this newer and better whatever!”
Another lost skill is writing thank you notes for gifts or acts of kindness. It is a tiny gesture, but a paper card or note means so much more than an email or even a spoken “thank you.” But don’t forget the spoken thank you at the time you are handed a gift. Just remember to add in the special touch of a written note a day or two later.
The result will be happier and better-balanced kids. As a bonus, you will be happier as well.
2. Teach your children budgeting
Budget your own household finances and have your kids learn budgeting. In fact, teach them household finances by letting them participate in some of your significant household financial decisions and in making (as well as maintaining) your household budget.
Have them take Financial Peace University Jr., which is what I call FPU for kids. The anxiety and stress of money is a home breaker. Think of the benefit of teaching your kids how to eliminate or at least reduce the number one cause of marital discord and divorce. Teach them budgeting and how to live a wise financial life, and they can live a better, happier life.
3. Teach your children the __ minute rule
Fill in the blank yourself with a reasonable length of time, perhaps 5 minutes or, even better, ten. Many purchases are what are called “impulse” purchases; they are spur of the moment, “I gotta have it” expenses that would never have been made in an impulse-free environment. That ten-minute delay allows you to walk away from the thing you want so much, away from the high-pressure salesperson, and that delay even gives you a moment for prayer about whether that is a purchase God that is God-honoring.
In fact, ask that specific question, “Does spending this amount at this time honor God?” Then ask how that unplanned purchase will impact your budget, your giving to God and your savings. Teach your children to do that by doing it yourself.
Is this really that important? In a word, yes. Impulse purchases make up almost 40% of online money spent. 54% of Americans have spent more than $100 on an impulse purchase, and 20% have spent more than $1,000 on an impulse purchase. 80% of impulse purchases are made in stores. See The State of Impulse Buying Persona – Statistics and Trends.
Perhaps the most amazing and frightening fact about impulse buying is that the average person, over the course of his or her lifetime, will spend over $110,000 on impulse purchases. 19 Dramatic Impulse Buying Statistics. Up to 40% of consumer spending is impulse buying. There is no need to ask if impulse buying is a problem.
While it wasn’t a purchase, remember where following an impulse about Bathsheba got King David. 2 Samuel 11. One very bad impulsive choice resulted in David becoming a murderer and in the death of his son. 2 Samuel 12.
4. Teach your children that money means time and has to be earned
See Part 8 of this series of articles. Make some chores household responsibilities, performed for free, and others non-mandatory chores so they can earn an allowance. Yes, that means you should make them really earn it. You are teaching a life lesson on hard work earns pay, and that choosing not to work earns nothing, among many other lessons.
5. Teach your children to save
See Save More – 10% Isn’t Enough. Many people have been taught or think they have learned that saving 10% of their income is enough. That article shows why that is untrue; you need to save more. By saving, by not spending every dollar that comes in (or even more) you teach your children to save. Have them save some of their allowance, at least 15%. And see Part 6 of this series of articles which has many ideas for boosting your children’s concept of saving through the act of your giving gifts that will be truly lasting, such as stock certificates.
6. Teach your children to be generous
One great lesson I have learned came from the statement I first heard from Todd Harper when he was President of Generous Giving, “I’ve never met an unhappy generous person.” Children need to learn to be generous. Remember that they are learning from you, from what they see you doing. Make your giving to God visible to them; forego online giving for a few years and write real checks and put real money in the offering plate.
Help them by listening to them – and find a cause they have expressed an interest in for their giving. Teach them that while generosity includes money, it is far more than money; it is about giving your L.I.F.E., your labor, your influence, your financial resources, and your expertise. Have your kids give some time in a local mission and their influence by recruiting some of their friends to pitch in and help. They can even develop expertise in some aspect of that local mission.
7. Teach your children that the borrower is a slave to the lender
In Part 6 of this series of articles, we addressed teaching investing because the power of compound interest can work in favor of the patient investor over time. On the other hand, compound interest, especially at the levels of credit card debt, can be destructive of any budget.
Just as you teach the good of money, we have urged in Part 9 that you need to teach the bad. Just as you teach the good of compound interest, you need to teach the bad. That is because the bad is very bad. You need to do more than say it or explain it, you need to give your children a life lesson to demonstrate that those friendly people who want them to have a credit card when they are older are not their friends. Money and debt can become a cruel master.
Have them take a virtual loan of $100 with credit card level interest of 16% compound. You can use an online calculator such as the Compound Interest Calculator and show that if no payments are made for a year, the debt will rise to $184.62.
8. Teach your children to use cash
There is one especially harmful aspect to using a credit card; your kids can’t really see that you can run out of money, they can’t really learn that when you have spent all your money you have to stop spending. Lessons about wise choices, the high cost of bad choices, the heartbreak of being broke, are lessons that are vastly harder to teach with a credit card.
Let them save real coins and bills. This is a hard lesson in a post-CoVid-19 world that now minimizes physical contact. You can track plastic easily in an app or a spreadsheet, but real money has a feel (just like no money has a feel) that is far more impactful than any spreadsheet.
9. Teach your children that money is a tool
Go back to Part 4 of this series of articles on teaching money to children and youth. Money isn’t evil, but it is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:10. Just as any tool can be used for good or for evil, likewise, money can be used for and can cause enormous good or tragic evil. No one would give a chainsaw to a 5-year-old. Don’t give your young child this financial chainsaw to play with without training, help and maturity.
10. Teach your children that decisions about earning and spending money (and not just decision about giving money) are spiritual decisions.
The most important lesson comes last and is that everything that is done involving money (what you earn, how much you earn, how hard you work, what you spend money on, why you spend money and how much money you spend, and many more), are spiritual matters. It isn’t that God wants or needs your money; it is that your attitude about money demonstrates your relationship to God.
Just imagine how different our world, our nation and even our communities would be if Christian financial values were reflected in the words and conduct of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, state and local government, and in our neighbors near and far. Hard work would pay off, honesty would be more than a topic of discussion, and kind words would matter. If an entire generation of children learned the lessons of Godly stewardship, that is the kind of world we could have.
Help your children understand the foundation of Biblical stewardship and live with right goals and priorities.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
May their treasures – and yours – lie in your relationship in Christ. And if you enjoyed this article, check out previous nine articles at www.idlewildfoundation.com/for-parents/.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.