Money and Children
By Steve Gillman
I sometimes get questions from subscribers to my newsletters
about money and children. The two most common types are related
to how to deal with the subject and how kids can make money.
Many emails come from children in fact, and a little article
I wrote called Six Ways for Kids to Make Money is one
of the most viewed of about a thousand articles I have at EzineArticles.com.
So I thought it was time to write something here about the subject.
I don't have kids, by the way, so my opinions are based on
my own childhood experiences as well as observation of how many
families deal with teaching children about money. My number one
recommendation is that you do teach them something. The
lessons that will otherwise be absorbed from the culture around
them are not likely to be helpful later in life, to say the least.
My own parents did not consciously teach my brothers and I
about money topics, but we learned by example both the importance
of money and some good habits with regard to handling it. They
tended to spend less than they made, they saved for the future,
they looked for less-expensive alternatives when shopping, and
they both worked hard. These are all good lessons to learn.
Somehow, on our own, we learned the more entrepreneurial attitudes.
I should mention that I had four brothers, and all of them have
been involved in businesses of various sorts over the years.
As a child we also had many little "businesses." Not
all of them were traditional or the nicest operations. For example,
I used to sell my vote to the highest bidder for the which television
show we would watch (majority vote won). Call that the business
In the great paper wad wars my brothers had I collected and
sold the spent paper-wads back to the combatants (who couldn't
risk picking them up for fear of being attacked). Paper wads,
in case you don't know, are folded and bent paper "bullets"
fired at each other using rubber bands. I was a non-combatant,
because it made more sense to be a war profiteer. I sold the
paper bullets back to my brothers for a couple cents each.
In school I sold candy out of a hollow book and from pockets
I had sewn inside my jacket (to hide the merchandise from teachers).
I also sold snacks, pens and other things, aiming for at least
50% margins. I never sold drugs, but I would have been good at
it because I never would have consumed my profits like many dealers
in school did.
I also sold Playboy magazines that I found a public recycling
bins. My store was my locker in my freshman year of high school,
and as I recall I charged only a dollar each - probably too low,
but they cost me nothing.
At home I ran casino games and carnival games for my brothers.
A good part of their paper route money went into my first bank
account, which I opened on my own at age ten or eleven.
I am certainly not recommending that kids do any of these
things, but then there were many things I did that were not so
out there, including cleaning for people, making sandwiches,
shoveling snow, and anything else that paid. What I am recommending
is that money be something children learn about relatively early
in life, perhaps by way of paid chores. I can tell you from experience
and from watching friends who were raised in other ways struggle
with having to work, that good working and money management habits
are a blessing later in life. They make everything less stressful.
If you have good financial habits your kids will tend to learn
those in any case, but some more specific principles that are
worth teaching them - both through words and actions - include:
1. Money is not an end in itself and should never be pursued
at the expense of more important values.
2. Money is important, and is necessary for modern life. It's
necessary if you care about the people you love, for example,
because it buys health care, education, as well as food and other
3. Work - either mental or physical - is how you make money.
Money obtained in other ways is less secure, and had to be made
by somebody else's hard work.
4. We are all in business - even employees are in the business
of marketing and selling their labor - and the primary way you
profit in business is by serving others.
There are many other things to say about money and children.
It's worth teaching the concept of investing; using your brains
to make money work for you. It's worth teaching kids that debt
only makes sense when the money borrowed is invested to save
or make more than it costs in interest. The list goes on, and
come to think of it, these money lessons may be needed by as
many adults as children.