Teaching Financial Literacy – The One Thing You Need To Know

I hear you out there. “Teaching financial literacy is a drag.” And it can be. Like most, you probably think about being in a math classroom with a teacher droning on. Or maybe when you hear the word “teaching,” you have flashbacks of notebooks, textbooks, and tests.

While all of those can be part of the learning process, they are far from the only ways we can teach. I would argue they are not all that effective when teaching financial literacy. Especially not for your children.

There are many ways to teach, but the method I want you to focus on is storytelling. If you have spent any time reading my articles, you have seen some of my stories. From outsourcing my paper route to plunging myself into credit debt, I have endless stories to share about managing and mismanaging my finances. I tell my stories to show you where I went wrong and how I got back on the right track. I hope it is easy for you to see yourself in my stories of using credit cards to finance nights out. Or stories about not sticking to a budget when I knew I had no more money coming in and endless bills that don’t ever stop.

Share Your Stories

While I hope my stories resonate with you, what I want you to do is to find and tell your stories to your kids. Your stories will resonate with them. We all have our stories of finical triumphs and pitfalls. Not one of us has done everything right or wrong.

Kids love stories of triumphs. They love to hear how David slew Goliath or when Jack chopped down the bean stock. But to give them the tales of winning, we need to share the parts about our falls and missteps. We often learn the most from the mistakes we make along the way.

So share those stories, and don’t sugar coat them. Give them all the details about overdrafts, debt collectors, or repossessions. Please give them the tales about being laid off, downsized, or deemed “surplus.” We all get knocked down. But we are all still standing. Why? Because we all got back up. Show your kids how you are a fighter and what you have learned from your journey.

Tell them that you contribute to a retirement fund because you don’t have a pension. Let our kids know that you maintain a rainy day fund because you have lost jobs before. Let them know that you won’t buy them that toy because it is not in your budget, and your budget is what makes sure that the bills are paid at the end of the month and keeps you out of debt.

Those stories will resonate with your kids in ways that textbooks never could.

Too Many Toys? Here’s How You Fix It

A reservation I know a lot of parents have about giving their child an allowance is, “Do we want more stuff coming into the house?” I feel you. Like you, I have stepped on more than enough pieces of lego, never to want to see those vile blocks again. But if we’re going to give our little ones the opportunities to manage their own money, then we also need to provide them with the opportunity to bring new things into the house.

But like with all responsibilities, some limits can be put into place. Here is how you are going to manage the new influx of stuff that is coming in – *a toy equilibrium.

Establish a Toy Equilibrium

Do this before starting the allowance, or after a big toy purge. Establish that your house is now at its maximum amount of toys, the number of toys in the home can go down, but it can not go up. If a new toy is going to be coming into the house, that means a toy of equal size, or parts, or whatever criteria you deem fit for your home, needs to be removed.

Too many toysA toy equilibrium is an excellent way for your child to start prioritizing their belongings too. If they are really in need of that new transformer, Elsa, or whatever the latest thing is, then they should be willing to get rid of that other thing that has been collecting dust.

I, unfortunately, have passed along the hoarding gene to my son. I am a collector. Like me, my son does not like to get rid of anything. All trash could be a crafting item, all toys are special to him, and to give something away is always a great offence to him.  I can relate to that, but at the same time, we have limited space, and he has started to come to terms with that. It is still a fight to get rid of stuff. However, post-shopping, I do have him find items that he no longer uses to add to our giveaway pile, and so far, it has worked well.

Creating a Healthy Relationship with Stuff

With great power comes great responsibility. The ability to buy stuff means your little one needs to be responsible enough not to hoard things.  Saying goodbye to toys creates a healthy relationship between your child and things.  The ownership relationship is a critical part of money management.

Is it hard for you to say goodbye to stuff too?  When you do a toy purge, make sure your little one sees you purging some of your stuff also.  Model the behaviour we want, right?  Have you tried a toy equilibrium in your home?  How did it go?


* I first read about a Toy Equilibrium in Ron Lieber’s book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded Generous, and Smart About Money