It’s that time of year! Some parents rejoice as others reluctantly send their children back to school.
Whatever camp you land in, we are trusting that our students are getting a well-rounded education. As students are hopefully learning the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, one subject is woefully ignored by most schools – personal finance. This is all the more strange when you consider that one of the purposes of education is to become a self-sufficient adult.
Did you know that only a handful of states today require that students have some financial education as a requirement of graduation?
And even if you have not considered homeschooling per se, when it comes to finances, it’s time for parents to take charge.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
And this is as true for how to handle money as it is in any other area of life.
Having counseled families for years, I’ve found that one of the reasons many parents are reluctant to sit down for a frank discussion about money, especially with their teenagers, is that they are embarrassed by their own financial difficulties or failures in the past.
It’s easy for me to believe a North Carolina State University study that found that parents were willing to discuss general topics like the need to save, earn or spend money on key things – but when it comes to debt and family income, the conversation dried up.
In fact, a T. Rowe Price survey found that 74 percent of parents admitted they were reluctant to talk about finances with their kids. Compare that to a Sallie Mae poll that found 84 percent of high school students would like to have more financial education.
As hard as this sounds, walking your children through a functional budget is a good place to start, and Crown has free tools that can help. Too many young adults don’t count the costs of an entire lifestyle as they make purchasing decisions – such as taking on school loans or signing a car lease.
A budget is the sum total of ALL the financial parts, and while any one price tag sounds reasonable, if rent, utilities and student debt consume most of the money, a 20-something can be floundering quickly.
Educating our children about money can be integrated into family life.
Consider the advice in Deuteronomy 11:19, “Teach (God’s principles) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Have your children join you as you are going through the bills, so they can get a sense of the cost of things – from electricity to insurance. Let them come with you as you shop for a car or make choices at the grocery store. Help them understand the way you balance needs versus wants.
“Financial ignorance is costing us billions of dollars”, according to Heidi Moore, the U.S. Finance and Economics editor for The Guardian. She goes on to say, “If you’re talking about a country of 330 million people, 47 million of whom are on food stamps, you’re really talking about a significant portion of the U.S. population that could do better, and that’s even before you get to the middle class and before you get to the lawyers and doctors who are high earners but easy targets for stock scammers,” she said.
And don’t forget the spiritual side of money.
Setting aside 10 percent of our income to support the local church is a way to honor the God who made all things possible. But that can be a hard lesson to learn, so as parents we should start teaching our children early the need to share what we have and to give back to the Lord what already belongs to Him.
In Malachi 3:20, God tells the people of Israel (and us): “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Consider enrolling your family in Crown’s online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study to learn how God sees money and resources. Perhaps you want to get together with some friends to take the pressure off and open up the conversation. And there are some helpful tools available even for young children.
Research shows that children form their primary money habits by age 7; they learn from the adults in their life how to value and use resources. So start early and don’t be afraid to talk with your children about how God wants us to use our resources – they want to hear from you.
Originally published in LifeWay magazine, September 2016.
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