How Can Children Handle Money In A Digital World?

I received a great question from a parent yesterday about something that has been extra challenging since the start of the pandemic. How do we teach our children about money when so many of our transactions are online? This parent brought up the excellent point that during the covid pandemic, many of us shifted to online purchases. But even before, and definitely after the pandemic, more and more of our buying is going to be online. With so many of our financial transitions being digital, how do we give our children a chance to experience handling money?

If you have read my post on allowances, you will know that I’m a big proponent for avoiding digital options until your child has a firm grasp of saving and spending using cash.Child on phone So when the pandemic hit, I decided it was an opportunity to test out some of the digital options available to me.
We tried using Rooster Money for my nine-year-old son, who has demonstrated an excellent grasp of money management. I did not and would not make this transition with my seven-year-old daughter since she is still getting a handle on saving, but my son has had three years of practice and is doing well.

I won’t lie; the convince of using apps to manage an is hard to argue. It automatically credits my son’s account with his allowance every week. It allows him to move money from his accounts as quickly as an online banking account.

The drawback to going digital

But, even with all those convinces, it does raise a few problems.

  1.  I require that my son have access to a device. This is not too challenging for me, but it may be for some parents., and add to that, I have been battling with the increased screen time due to online learning, so adding another reason for him to be on a device isn’t my favourite.
  2. We have fewer discussions about money. My son can use the app to shift money from his different accounts (spend, save, give), but since it is happening virtually, we have fewer interactions and less dialogue about what he plans to do with his money. This challenge would be a show-stopper for me if my son’s interest in money and money matters were not as deep as they are. So instead, we find other opportunities to have these discussions. But if he was less interested, I think I would switch back to cash for this reason alone.
  3. When we manage his money via an app and make online purchases, it can feel like I am buying things for him since he does not have his online accounts or credit cards to make purchases. So instead of buying what he wants, he has to use my accounts and credit card and pay me back. This experience is a far cry from when he would go to the store and buy his one stuff. To help overcome this last hurdle, companies are releasing debit cards for kids, and I will dive more into those options in a future article.
So, what is the solution?

I still firmly believe that for younger children getting their first opportunities to interact with money, they should do it at a physical store. There is more to money management than moving money from one account to another. Interacting with service people as they cash you out. The anticipation of a purchase. The feeling of the exchange when you hand over your money to receive your item or service, to name a few.

The sooner we can give our little ones those opportunities to practice those skills, the better. I acknowledge that as we move more to digital, our children, as they grow up, will likely do most of their transactions online, but that doesn’t mean all of their transactions will be online. There is a reason why online stores call it a shopping cart. And have a check-out button. They are a proxy for the real thing. So, let’s give our children a chance to experience the real thing before they move to the virtual.

How does that work in practice?

I know it is not feasible for most people to take their child to a store all the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it once in a while. A solution that worked for my kids was taking them to a physical brick-and-mortar store once a month. That cadence worked for us. They usually needed a few weeks to save up enough money to buy something, and I usually could find time in my schedule to take them to a store once a month. But that may be different for you. I also make sure to switch them back to cash and let them take complete control of the interaction once we are in the store.

In the end, what I hope you will do I find what works best for you. If monthly doesn’t work, maybe you shoot for every two months. The important thing is that you try to give them the opportunities to manage their own money, in whatever form works best for you and your family.


Empower Your Kids With Financial Literacy

Who does most of the talking when you’re at your pediatrician’s office?  More and more data is coming out that advises parents to let their children lead during their doctor’s appointments.  By allowing your child to take a lead role in their health care, you are empowering them.  But why stop with health care?  You can empower your kids by giving them the space to question your spending too.

Question Authority

A generation or two ago, it was unheard of to question a doctor. Doctors would take offence to you questioning their authority. Some still do, but the medical field is starting to see the flaw in this approach. Many medical professionals now see that people need to take on a significant share of the responsibility for their health and well-being. And that can only happen if they feel empowered to find the information. And you can only do that if you can ask your doctor questions.

But empowerment isn’t just for your health and well-being. We need to incorporate that mindset into all facets of our lives. We have to remember what our ultimate goal is when we are raising children. It is often hard to remember that the purpose of parenting isn’t to get them to eat vegetables; it is to teach them about nutrition so that they can make healthy choices. It is not to administer medicine, it is to teach them about health and well-being so they can make the right choices, and feel comfortable asking a doctor question to ensure they stay healthy. And it is not to buy them the necessities. It is to teach them how to manage their resources.  So that they will one day be able to live and support themselves without our help.

Training Adults

We are not raising children. We are training adults. It is a slog, and it is almost impossible not to get bogged down by the hundreds of tasks, and requests, and assignments, and appointments. But all of those are just the tactics. They are not the objective.

If we do our jobs well, in the end, our children will leave us and go off to live fulfilling lives as adults. How they define fulfillment may differ from us, but our goal is to give them the skills necessary to define and achieve that fulfillment. Preparing them for adulthood is why it is essential to empower your kids, given them the tools they need to question authorities. Not to be contrary, but to be curious to seek knowledge from knowledgeable people, and then help them to apply it to better themselves.

Empower via Questions

Concerning finances, don’t feel like you are the only authority they can question. There are aunts and uncles, grandparents, and an assortment of skilled professionals in your networks. Make sure you expose them to those trusted advisors. Build those relationships so that they can have a full breadth of information to empower them for what awaits them.

Protect Your Kids Financial Mental Health

Financial literacy is starting to become a focal point in schools. For that, I’m very thankful.  While I believe introducing financial concepts to students earlier would be more beneficial, I’m grateful for the progress we have seen.  But before you think that we can leave your child’s financial education solely to our schools, think again.  Doing so could leave your child’s money mental health in jeopardy.

Financial Mental Health

I’m confident schools will do well discussing the hard facts about personal finance. What is an asset, what is credit, and what is debt? But financial literacy is more than just definitions.  There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in how we use our money.  That is why you need to be involved in teaching financial literacy.

You know your child better than anyone, and I believe you are a better advisor when it comes to your child’s emotional well-being. So while in the classroom your child will get to understand some of the nitty-gritty of finance, you can be there to discuss:

*     How you feel when you buy something
*     How you feel when your savings account is at zero
*     How you feel when you give to charity
*     How you feel when you get paid for work well done

Feelings Drive Actions

I am a big basketball fan, and I live in Toronto.  So when Toronto was in the NBA finals, it was a big deal for me. Over two weeks, I gained ten pounds. Why? I was stress eating. All the tension of the series had me overeating. I’ve known I stress-eat for a while. When I’m down, I reach for sugar and crave comfort foods. There are feelings tied to the way I eat. The same is true for the way I spend and save.

Think back to the last purchase you made for yourself. How did that make you feel? Did you get a little high off of the transaction?  That euphoric feeling can become addictive, and drive our behaviour, just like my stress drove me to overeat.

Whether retail therapy is good or bad depends on you.  But the only way to answer that question is to understand how you feel since your feelings drive actions. I  know what my triggers are for stress eating—knowing that, I can choose how to manage it.  The same is true for the emotions that drive our financial behaviours, like saving, spending or giving.

Talk About Their Feelings

There is a lot of feelings that go into what we do with our money. When we have something in our lives that is not right, we may seek out a councillor to help us deal with our feelings. The hope is that by identifying our emotions and our triggers, we can change how we react. I want parents and guardians to be our children’s first financial councillors. Parents can help children work out the complicated feelings they may have around managing money. As much as I know teachers are there for our kids to talk to, they change year over year. And with counselling, sometimes what you need is consistency.

So don’t be afraid to ask your children how they felt when they had to pay back a loan, or when they finally were able to save up and buy that big-ticket item. Getting them to acknowledge their emotions will better enable them to have healthy financial mental health habits and give them the tools to deal with those complex emotions on their own.

Are We Rich? What to Say When Your Kids Ask

Hey Mom, are we rich?  Has your child asked you this question, or it’s opposite, “Are we poor?”. We have and it is a doozy.  Here is how you can deal with this question when you get it.

Let me start by repeating something I’ve said a few times. I’m very fortunate. I grew up with all my needs met, and I currently do the same for my children. I acknowledge that much of that privilege came from the luck of the timing and place of my birth. Had I been born somewhere else, or at some other time, I would not have had all the opportunities that I did. I also acknowledge that I have worked for what I have.  But just the fact that I was able to be educated, to be in a position to work, makes me one of the lucky ones in this world. So with all that said, yes we are rich.

Us vs The World

If we compare our situation to the vast majority of the people in the world, we would have to acknowledge that we are rich. Are We Rich Vs the WorldThe majority of the world makes much less per person than that of my family and me. And that is true for most of the people in my community. I have to believe that would also be true for most of the people reading this. According to where most of my readers are based, and those countries average income per/capital. Which means by those standards, we are very well off.

Us vs The Neighbourhood

But let’s be honest, when our children ask are we rich or poor questions they are not comparing us to households around the world.  They are Are We Rich vs neighbourhoodcomparing themselves to their friends down the street. They want to know how their family stacks up compared to the friend with a new pair of Jordans on, or a Nintendo Switch. Are we rich compared to those families?

I think this comparison starts early.  Our kids are not much different than us. I won’t pretend that I don’t look at clothing, cars, and other items and try to estimate where I fit economically compared to my peers. I like to believe that I don’t, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t. But with age and a bit of wisdom, I think that whatever mental calculus I do when I see those items I still treat the people I meet the same way regardless. It may be hard for me to stop doing mental math, but it has always been easy for me to treat people as people, I thank my parents for that.

What’s the  Answer?

If this question comes up, and I am positive it will come at some point, I would suggest you avoid diving deep into your pay stubs and tax returns. Start by asking a simple, “Why do you ask?”.  In addition to buying yourself some time to formulate an answer, it will also give you a chance to address what is at the root of your child’s question. Maybe they are comparing what they have versus what other’s don’t or perhaps it is something altogether different.  First, try to get to the cause of the question before you dive in.

Regardless of where your child is coming from with the question, I would suggest you work on defining the terms “Rich” vs “Poor.”  In our family being rich is as having enough money to cover all the needs of your family.  This is a great time to identify needs vs wants if you haven’t already done so. If you have all your needs covered and you have money left over to buy your wants I consider that rich. Poor, on the contrary, is when you do not have enough money to cover all of your needs.

Definitions Matter

With that simple definition, it is easy to understand why we can feel poor while we are some of the wealthiest people in the world.  If we start to believe that having the newest smart-phone is a need, but we can not afford it, then we will feel inferior.   Similarly, people with very little can feel wealthy if they want for little.  I don’t want to stray into the ills of consumerism, but if you get into this discussion, you can easily segway into how wanting more can make you feel bad.

It is easy to grasp the “keeping up with the Jone’s” effect.  The more we see others have, the more we want, the more we want, the less we feel like we have.    To counteract this effect, we practice gratitude.  I think it is essential to fight against the endless want so that we can appreciate what we have.   

Be Honest

If this question arises for you.  Be honest about your situation.  Provide your children with both comfort and clarity. Let them know that you, as their parent, will do everything in your power to supply them with all the needs that they have.

If this question arises out of wanting for more stuff let them know that not getting all of their wants met, right when they want them is a good thing too.  Remind them how much more valuable items feel when they have to save.  Remind them how fortunate they are.

“Are we rich/poor?” is not an easy question to answer, but answer honestly for your situation, and you will be fine.  Let me know what you have said to your little ones when this question has come up.



My parents didn’t talk to me about money – How? Part II

In my last post, I touched on the idea that you do not need to be an expert to talk to your children about personal finance.  In this post, I want to focus on some common refrains you may have heard in your childhood- “We don’t talk about money.” or “Don’t worry about it” or “My parents didn’t talk to me about money, and I turned out fine.”

I consider myself very fortunate growing up because I did not hear any of those phrases in my house.   My parents were very open around the topic of finances. However, I recognize that this was not typically the case in many homes.  For many of you, the topic of money, especially with your parents, may have been a forbidden topic. Money is not something you could talk about. It would have been just as inappropriate to talk to your parents about money as it would have been to ask them how many times they had sex.

If this resonates with you, I can understand why you may be hesitant to talk to your child about money. Our environments shape how we relate to our world, and thus, you may feel paralyzed around this topic. Many parents have admitted that this resonates with them, and they are regretful that they never broached the topic with their children.

What Are You Passing On?

Why is it that money can be so taboo? Is it related to feelings of shame or embarrassment about the finances, what our parents had, or didn’t have? Or perhaps it was their lack of knowledge on the topic?

How might this affect a child, the lack of transparency? It could result in feelings of shame or embarrassment. Some report that it made them feel as if they were not a trusted confidant to whom their parents could share that personal information.

We often inherit our parents’ values around subjects as personal as these. So how have your experiences shaped the way you feel about money now? Does the thought of talking to your child about money, raise those same feelings?  Do you still feel embarrassed or shame? More importantly, do you want to pass those values and feelings on to your kids?

I have a feeling the answer is no.

Be Conscious and Deliberate

A lot of feelings we have towards money, and even actions we take with our money, are irrational. I love the study of behavioural economics because it confronts the fact that people are not rational beings. We may know that we should save, but instead, we spend. We know that shopping therapy will leave us feeling worse in the long run, yet we continue to do it anyway. Yet, if we want to have a strong grasp on personal finance, we do need to act rationally and be aware of our feelings and actions regarding money. To truly be reflective and self-aware, we need to go back and revisit some of our early experiences with money.

If the subject of money was “off-limits” with your parents, this likely created some confusion, anxiety or both for you.  If you are willing to reflect honestly, take some time to think about how those early experiences shaped your beliefs about money and how you spend, save and give now. We will likely want to be much more conscious and deliberate with what we teach our children.

We want our children to be comfortable to come to us when they have questions about the world, whether that be about relationships, academics, money or otherwise. To forge that trusted relationship with them, we need to reciprocate and show them that we trust them as well.

You don’t need to whip out a pay stub on day one, but start the dialogue and stay open to answering their questions honestly. A stronger relationship with your child will be your reward.

Keep Learning, Together

With the subjects I address in these two posts, I would also want to encourage all of us to brush up on our knowledge of personal finance. Also, as we know, our children will do what we do, and not what we say. So if your finances are messy (as it can happen to all of us, myself included), take the time to get them in order. If your child is old enough to understand what you are doing, add them in some of those discussions. If you commit to paying down some debt, include your child in those discussions. Let them see that you are not perfect, but model how to set goals and work towards them.   They will act as your accountability partner. And it is powerful for them to see their role models (you) working towards your goals.

How? Part I. I’m not financially literate

Let me address the elephant in the room. I am advocating that we teach our kids about money, but is based on a few key assumptions. In the next two posts, I will address two such assumptions.  The first being that we are financially literate ourselves, and secondly, we are comfortable talking about money.

I’m Not Financially Literate

With regards to our financial literacy, without a doubt, we can always learn more. Investing, debt management strategies, retirement planning, and the list goes on. There are endless methods and tactics for how, we as adults, should be dealing with money. You have probably heard some of them:

  • “Save automatically”
  • “Pay yourself first”
  • “The 50/30/20 rule”

The list is endless. I’ve read something recently that says, in effect, “We can not give, what we do not possess.”

So how then, can we be expected to teach what we do not feel we know?

Yes, You Are Financially Literate!

To that I say, don’t sell yourself short. We all have had experience with money. Our journeys are all different and  our level of knowledge varies vastly.  However, when you compare that to  your child’s knowledge base in this realm, you are a wise financial sage. The important takeaway is that if we are not talking about money with our kids, they will be forced to  will be  interpret what they can from the media and other social influences in their lives.  It is best to provide a basic shared foundation of finance, to help our kids start off their relationship with money in a positive way.

Simply earning an income, paying bills,  and spending your money has given you a solid grasp of the basics. You likely know how to prioritize your spending to cover your needs and you  understand the difference between a need and a want.  One way or another you have learned the ramifications of spending more on wants versus needs. For the outset, your child does not know these things. Here is where you start.  Teach your child that money is a limited resources, and our wants our unlimited.  Discuss the need to make decisions about how this limited resources will be used. Talk through how you make your decisions and what you value.  The more complicated money management strategies can come later.  If you want, you can learn those strategies with your child when the time is right, but don’t let a lack of complete knowledge on the subject stop you from even covering the basics. We owe this to our children.


Are you Wealthy?

What does it mean to be wealthy? Easy right? Being wealthy means you are rich, you have lots of cash, go on vacations and you can buy what you want when you want. Or is it?

I had a fascinating conversation with Felicia Robinson Joly. She is the co-author of The ABC’s of Wealth: Big Ideas for Little Children. A book I mentioned in a previous post on when is the right time to start talking about money with kids. Her book takes a different approach to start the conversation about financial literacy by discussing the vocabulary of financial literacy.

The book

I’ll admit when I read “ABC..” I thought it was a bit simple. Felicia, to my surprise, echoed that observation, and then doubled down on it. She told me it is simple by design. We both agree that there has been far too little time spent teaching financial literacy in the past, but we also acknowledge that becoming financially literate can be a daunting task. She consciously created her book to be approachable, so that there would be “no excuses” to avoid the conversations. The easy to read verses get stuck in your head like a pop song. By creating rhymes and memorable text her hope is that you and your child will easily absorb the vocabulary of financial literacy.

The Mission

But back to wealth. During our conversation, Felicia brought up the question “What is wealth?” again and again, and for good reason. Felicia’s objective with the book is to get people financially literate, but more importantly, her mission is to have people define what wealth means to them.

“Over the last 200 years, we have lost focus on what our intrinsic value is”. “Money has become the master” and “we’ve devalued ourselves” Felicia explains.  She went on to say that she wants to shift the “underlying mindset” with our relationship to money to be “based on our own definition of what wealth and value is”. Right now she believes those definitions “are being shaped by external ideas”.

Put another way Felicia says she wants people to “define wealth within” and to “look at yourself as your ultimate asset…your mind, abilities and craft”. Rather than seeing a doctor, a lawyer, or a ‘YouTube star’ and thinking that is what wealth is, I am going to get that.


The idea that we have devalued ourselves reminded me of The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin. I wrote in a  review of his book how he empathized that we are all artists. The industrialized economy of the past forced us to be a part of a larger system. In that system, we only had value as a cog in the larger system. In our new economy, we need to remember that we all have an individual value that we need to offer the world. It is only through the creation of our ‘art’ that we can then engage in the exchange of value. My ideas, my art, for your connection, your attention and your money.

Felicia notes that this is what the billionaires have done. She referenced the billionaires who started with the questions of how am I going to create value, what idea do I have that I can then share with the world. What connections can I make to exchange value? She noted how Oprah created value with the exchange of ideas, Richard Branson with the exchange of music, and Bill Gates with the idea that there could be a better way to interact with hardware. They created value by first having ideas to share.

People have it upside down; they think ‘let me get the money and then I’ll be important’ or, ‘I want to be wealthy so I will work for that wealthy person’, instead of creating their own idea and exchanging it with the world.

Shifting Mindset

That shift in mindset made me think of those people in our lives who do a 180 in their career. They put the brakes on hard, after spending years climbing the ladder, only to realize years in that they don’t want to be doing what they are doing. Or worse, they came to that realization but kept going even though work brought them no joy, only income. It happens. We get on a path, and follow it,  never asking if is this the right path for me? This is what happens when we do not define what wealth is for us. When we assume that wealth is solely the collection of money. And then we go down the path we define that will allow us to accumulate the most money we can.

Felicia is hoping to make that shift more conscious, not a result of burnout or happenstance, but a conscious decision to say this is what wealth means to me. Time to be with my family, or time to see the world, or just time to sit peacefully with myself. And once you define wealth, then you use your abilities to create value to reach that goal.

I’ve written about target setting for savings, but this is target setting for living. Defining what success is, what wealth is are things that should be done before your career.  You can adjust and iterate if needed. And they should be based off your objectives and goals, not based on what we see on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.

How do you define wealth and success?  Have you conveyed your thoughts on wealth to your children?   Who is helping them to define their wealth?  If it’s not you, then who, DJ Kalid, Labron, the Kardashians?

I commend Felicia on her mission to shift mindsets because I agree that wealth should be defined within.  You can find Felicia and her financial literacy program at  Power@Play and you can find the ABC’s of Wealth here.

I Let My Kids Gamble

Would you let your kids buy lottery tickets? How about playing the slots at a casino? Right now you are thinking, this guy is crazy. Who would introduce gambling to their kids? I thought the same thing until I realized that I have not only condoned gambling but have helped to facilitate it.

Pokemon is big in our house right now. I have to hand it to the creators of that game. They have been able to not just keep that franchise going for 20+ years, they have been able to capture a new generation of loyal fans and buyers year after year. Think back to when you were kids, while sports cards, pogs and garbage pail kids are technically still around they are nowhere near as popular or a successful in terms of revenue as Pokemon.

Somehow my son curated a collection of 50+ cards without ever buying a single card. He got a few for Halloween, and friends who had doubles have given him some. But this weekend he went out to buy his very first pack.

My son has been trying to school me on the various values of the cards. The higher ‘attack value’ the more valuable the card. Simple enough. So when he bought his first package of cards, low and behold he received mostly low attack value cards. I’m not going to lie, I was really excited about that. No, I’m not just a big meanie. I was excited because it gave me a chance to talk to my son about the lottery. Yes, I’m a super geek, and yes when my child bought Pokemon cards he was playing the lottery.

Here is a bit of the exchange we had after he bought his cards:

Me: Did you get any valuable cards?
Him: Not really, not that valuable.

Me: How did you feel before you opened the pack?
Him: I was excited

Me: Why do you think you were excited?
Him: I was hoping I would get an EX (High attack value card)

Me: Why don’t they put lots of EX’s in the pack?
Him: I think they do it so that you have to buy more packs.

And this my friends, is why Pokemon is a lottery. Lots of little wins to keep you coming back for more, and few big paydays. If your friends have valuable cards, you know it is only a matter of time before you hit it big too. Just like those ‘just image commercials’ you see that show you people just like you can win the big one.

That is why Pokemon has been so successful. They have been able to create value and scarcity with their cards. They have also been able to create that excited high we get when we gamble or play the lottery. Yup, I just let my 7-year-old gamble, on Pokemon. They have also created a card game that people love to play, and included the communal aspect of trading cards that has been popular for years. But I’m just focusing on the gambling here.

I’m not big on gambling, I know the odds, so I don’t play the lottery or go to casinos. I’m not passing judgment on how anyone else chooses to spend their money, but I am trying to educate my kids. And letting them know how lotteries work, is part of that.

The funny thing is, Pokemon cards aren’t the only form of gambling that I have introduced my kids to. At our kids school fun fair they had a few games of chance. And it was my wife that pointed out that the money that was spent to play the games could have easily bought 2-3x the number of prizes that were won.

She was also wise to point out that he was not paying for the prize he was paying for the experience, which like some people who gamble. But like all other things regarding money, and especially gambling, it is important that we are aware of what we are doing.

My son now understands that if he buys a pack of Pokemon, most cards will not be valuable, but every now and then one might be. He knows that they do this on purpose to encourage him to buy more cards. And now if he chooses to buy more cards, at least he is doing it conciously. And that is all I can ask for.

Things My Parents Didn’t Tell Me – Credit Debt

I’m very fortunate to have two loving parents who gave me more than I needed to succeed. They cared and provided for me both physically and emotionally, so this is not a condemnation on them by any means. Also, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m hung up on things that happened 20-30+ years ago. I am not. I own every step I’ve taken on my path.

What this is, is an honest look at some of the things that I wish I would have understood earlier in life. “What my parents didn’t tell me” is a catcher label than “Things I wish I learned sooner”. It also has the bonus of taking us back to when we were children, and still forming our understanding of the world and the way it worked.

My Debt Story

So what is it that I wish I had learned sooner? For me, it would be Credit and Debt. If you borrow money, you need to repay it. It seems so obvious now that it is almost ridiculous to write it out. And yet, I didn’t do it when it mattered. I also didn’t realize the severe ramifications of not repaying my debt, or maybe more critically, of not paying it back on time.

Specifically, I’m talking about credit cards. I got my first credit cards when I was living on my own around age 18 or 19. At first, I didn’t use them much; they were for emergencies, right? But then I did…for everything. They are so convenient, and who has cash on them anyways? Big or small purchases, it didn’t matter; and since my savings balance didn’t move, it felt like free money. But then the minimum payments started getting higher, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll pay this one a little late. Is MasterCard going to struggle if they don’t get my minimum payment on time?” You see where this is going.

What I Didn’t Know

I didn’t realize what I was doing to my credit score.

It’s crazy, right? How is it possible that I got thousands of dollars in credit without anyone sitting me down to say, hey this is how this whole system works. No one told me what a late payment would mean, or more accurately what lots of late payments would mean. If I’m honest with myself, if someone said “Hey Clif, you know you are not going to be able to get a car loan when you are done school, because you are paying your credit card bills late” I would have said, “I’ll walk”. But the fact remains,  I was given a credit card without anyone telling me:

  • A $2 pack of gum bought with a credit card will cost you $50 when you only pay the minimums,
  • Paying on time is just as important as paying your bills at all, or
  • Defaulting on a credit card could keep you from buying a car, a house and in some instances from getting a job.
What Will I Teach My Kids

So what does that mean now? Well, for one, I plan to explain the credit system to my children before they are living on their own. I will teach them how purchases on credit card are a loan. I will teach them that paying your bills is just as important as WHEN you pay them. They will learn that their credit history starts from their first bills to their last credit payment. And that information will be used to determine interest rates and creditworthiness for the rest of their lives (or seven years, which seems like a lifetime when you are in your twenties). But more important than any of that, I want to get my children into the habit of paying back.

Lend Your Kids Money

I believe the one thing that would have changed my actions as an adult, even more than understanding the system, is if I had developed the habit of paying loans back.  I didn’t owe anyone anything until I got my first credit card bill and student loan, both when I was about 18 years old. When I started borrowing, I was not used to paying anyone back. And it was easy for me to think, no need to pay this back now.

Some people would never consider paying a bill back late. They are born with that sense of urgency when in debt, unfortunately I was not one of them. I want to build that sense of urgency into my children. I need to create repayment habits in my children through actions.   And the only way to make that habit is to lend my kids money!

That’s right; I want you to lend money to your kids too. I’m sure I’ll get some push back on this. “Advances on allowances will mess with the concept of saving.”  I respect that, but I think just like there are times you use credit to get something now rather than waiting, the concept of credit and debt is something you should incorporate into your child’s money practice.

Lending in Practice

Here is what I have done. If I go out with my son to buy something with his allowance, I do my best to set the expectation that the item he wants to buy will be purchased only with his money. He should be going to to the store with all the money to buy the item, but it will happen from time to time that something else catches his eye that is more expensive, or he forgot the tax (I make sure he pays the tax).

In those instances, I tell him I will lend him the money, but as soon as he gets his allowance, or whenever he gets money the first thing he needs to do is pay me back. I take the receipt from his purchase, write an IOU on the back, and have him sign it. I will not lend out more than one week’s allowance since my objective is not to get him into debt trouble. That is his credit limit.

Here is how it played out the first time I did this. I lent my son an extra $4 a few weeks ago. Right before his allowance, he was given $5 for his birthday from Papa. I will not lie; I felt conflicted telling him that he had to pay me back using his birthday money, and I will also let you know there were tears when he paid me back. But I believe a lesson was learned. And I plan on lending to him again in the future.

How are you teaching about Debt and Credit

Debt and credit are big on my personal finance curriculum. I would love to know if you have any other ideas on how to teach our kids about this important concept. Also, I want to make “What my parents didn’t teach me about personal finance” into a series. I would love to interview you, yes you, the one reading this, to hear your finance journey. You can remain anonymous, but I think we all have important stories to share. Let me help you share yours. If you are interested reach out to me:

Lastly, a lot of this post assumes that you have a good handle on how credit cards and the credit system works. If you don’t, I would strongly urge you to read up on them. I will go into more detail on credit cards in future posts, but if you feel like you need something now, email me and I will send you some resources.

Glass Celings

You will notice that most of my writing focuses on my son. Which made me start to think, am I treating my son differently with regards to money than my daughter?

Let me back up a little bit. I’ve always wanted a daughter when I was starting to think about my family; I envisioned raising a little girl. I think,(and by “I think” I mean I’m embarrassed to it admit this happened) I mentioned I wanted a little girl to my now wife, on our first night out, even before we were officially dating.  The idea of helping to shape a young lady to be strong and empowered might come from growing up with powerful and empowered women role models. My mom was a very accomplished, no-nonsense executive for a not for profit. And my older sister, who I still idolize, was always a fantastic student who was also popular and a well-rounded person who has done amazing things both personally and professionally. Both my mother and sister helped me to see that women are equal in every measure to men. And my lived experience has shown me that, while that is true in every regard, in both the personal and professional realms, it is not always the cultural belief.

So the idea of helping to raise the next generation of successful women in my lineage, while helping to tear down the gender stereotypes was something that I was excited to take on. When my son was born, we did our best not to introduce stereotypes to him.  We never encouraged him to play with these toys vs those or to wear these colours, not those. But even though we did not consciously try to impose those stereotypes, I know we did to an extent. He was dressed in mostly blues and greens for his first few years. Is that because of the stores, or us; in the end, it doesn’t matter. And when he got to school, those stereotypes were there in full force. On Pink Shirt Day, a day children are encouraged to wear pink to combat bullying he refused because, ironically enough, he was worried about being made fun of. Adding more irony, it was his female friend that was the one that he was most concerned about ridiculing him.

So the stereotypes that I am hoping to tear down are in full effect, for sure, but back to money and my daughter. How have they affected the way I teach her about money. I would like to believe they haven’t. My daughter is a very different person than my son. So it would only be natural that my style of teaching would be modified to reflect the different personalities. While my son has been interested in money for a long time, that interest has not manifested in my daughter to the same degree. And because of that lack of interest, the conversations that I have about earning, spending and saving have primarily been focused on the audience that cares the most about the topic. My daughter is also younger. She is now at the age when I first attempted an allowance with my son the first time around.  I also have more realistic expectations. I still include her in the conversations I have with my son.

At the same time, I  know most of the lessons I am teaching now will need to be repeated at a later date to make sure she has a full understating of what I’ve said.  I also believe there are lessons I will want to hammer home a little harder with her; than I do with my son because she is a girl (negotiating and advocation comes to mind).   So I guess if I am looking honestly at myself, I do treat my children differently, and part of that difference is because of gender.  And I don’t think that is a bad thing here.


I’m dedicated to teaching both my children finance. I am looking forward to giving my daughter opportunities to practice money management. But I do have to acknowledge that the stereotypes are still out there, and she may need to know a little bit about them to become that strong, empowered woman that I dreamed of so many years ago.


What do you think?  Do you find that you treat the topic of money differently between your children? Is it based on age, or do you find that gender plays a role at all? Let me know, I would be fascinated to hear what, if any, difference you have noticed between siblings.