Time-on-Earth Allocation, and Other Money Habits to Teach Your Kids

Whether your children are still in pre-school or already heading off to college, it’s never too early to teach your kids these five skills to learn about budgeting, saving, and investing

Antje Schiffler 7 July, 2022 | 9:18AM
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Children remember simple, repetitive instructions. Brush those teeth twice a day, don’t cross the road on a red light, eat your veggies - there's a reason these statements work, but they only work if you do it too.

Similarly, if you want your children to develop good money habits, they need to see you making smart choices. How you handle your financials when you're around your kids might be even more important than what you teach them about money. 

In other words: practice what you preach. If you want your children to develop reasonable spending, saving and budgeting habits, they need to see you make smart choices. But be aware: this will take time. Here's five tips to help you do just that. 

1. Spend Your Earnings Wisely, or, Consider What to Do with Grandma’s Birthday Gift

Trying to talk your children out of squandering their birthday money can be nerve-racking. Be assured, you are not alone. "Are you sure you want to spend the money on this?" is probably a question all parents will utter at some point.

Remind your kids that just because they can afford to buy the toy, tennis racket or Tesla does not mean they should buy it.

Show your children how reining in those small impulses can translate into greater things down the road. And do make a point of modeling turning down impulses and weighing choices. Over time, they will watch their money grow instead of disappear – and experience delayed gratification.

2. You Need an Income, or Why an Allowance is Important

Allowances teach children the value of money. Kids get to learn by experience at a very young age about financial achievements and mishaps. Giving children a budget to stick to can help influence smart decision-making and learning how to make their own cost-benefit decisions.  

This also means that you need to teach your children to live within their means. If they bust up their monthly allowance in week one, you need to not top it up every time they need more. It will help them experience delayed gratification.

3. College Costs Money (Have a Plan)

At Morningstar, we are all about investing for the long term. That may be a hard sell to your teenager, who probably thinks 10 days are "long term". But when they realise planning ahead will help make money grow, they’ll listen.

Suggest they model their own portfolios when they are older. They will experience that it’s worthwhile learning about investing and finance, and about the benefits of making those strategies work for them.

But also remind them to set realistic expectations and to find a strategy that works during market volatility. Not checking your account balance each single day might be a good move, says Morningstar’s Carole Hodorowicz.

"If you're hands-off with your portfolio, you’re less likely to make changes that you could later regret, such as selling yourself out of stocks in the depths of a bear market", adds Christine Benz, Morningstar's director of personal finance.

And keep in mind:the 152-year record of US market returns is littered with bear markets. In each case, the market eventually recovered and went on to new heights.

4. Do Compare Yourself to Yourself

Benz also recommends one thing in particular to children and teens. Not everyone comes from the same means. And even if peers get a fast start, that doesn't necessarily mean they will end up ahead. That means comparison with others should be avoided.

Admittedly, that is hard to do, and social media is of no help either. Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are replete with influencers posting their lavish lifestyles – or dodgy investment advice, for that matter.

However, do compare yourself with yourself: measure your progress (or that of your child) and see the improvements you've made. And don't forget to celebrate the small wins!

5. Remember the Less Fortunate

Once children are old enough to make their own money, be sure you teach them about giving. They can pick a charity or organisation. This way, they will experience how giving not only affects the recipient, but also the giver.

Benz encourages older children to pay attention to what she refers to as "time-on-earth allocation." Find a balance with how you spend your time and money so that it brings you joy and does some good, she says.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Antje Schiffler  is an editor for Morningstar in Frankfurt.