We all want the best for our children -- and for our nieces, and nephews, and grandchildren, and little Dennis, that tow-headed kid who lives across the street. But we don't always transform those good intentions into action.
We may hope that our youngsters grow up financially savvy, avoiding the temptations of credit card debt or excessive, thoughtless spending. But do we talk with them frequently about how to manage money prudently? Do we discuss fiscal blunders we've made, hoping they'll learn from our mistakes? Not often enough.
Want to take action? I've got good news: There's plenty of help available, for you and for them. Schools are increasingly offering financial lessons; if your kids' schools don't, consider agitating for more practical money lessons during their school day.
I recently ran across a useful introduction to fiscal management for the preschoolers and elementary students: Sam Renick's books It's A Habit, Sammy Rabbit! and Will Sammy Ride the World's First Space Coaster? (Learn more about these and related offerings at Sam's website.) The first book shows how Sammy Rabbit, by saving and accumulating carrots, saves the day when his family is hungry. The second is more explicitly about money, as Sammy has to save enough to go on a field trip with his class. My five-year-old test audience definitely enjoyed both books.
Even more books out there tackle dollars and cents from a kid's point of view. Judith Viorst offers Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, showing how Alexander spends a dollar while his siblings grow their own allowances. And David Schwartz has penned the popular How Much Is a Million? and If You Made a Million, which are also very good.
All children can benefit from some actual investing, at almost any age. Get them involved by allocating a few shares of some stocks you own to them, and following the companies' fortunes together. This will work best with companies that teens know and like, such as Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , and cereal-maker General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) . As the kids get older, you can help them choose some stocks to buy with their own money, and you might eventually even open a joint custodial brokerage account.
If the kids you care most about are already teenagers, it's not too late to get them up to speed. You can help teens get a financial head start in life by pointing them to our book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of. Our Teens and Their Money site is also chock-full of information and advice on saving, earning, spending, and investing money, from both Fool staffers and fellow teenagers. Finally, our Teens and Their Money discussion board lets teens talk with their peers (and some adults) about financial matters.
We even have savings advice for you, courtesy of our Savings Center. It can help you understand how much you need in your emergency fund, and how to invest that money, among other things.
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Why this matters
Not convinced that money is a critical topic to teach your children? Read about the Fool who recently calculated that he'd paid nearly $200,000 in interest in battling back his credit card debt. Don't let this happen to young people you care about. By helping them avoid unwise spending habits, you can spare them years of stress and frustration.
Here's to the healthy and wealthy young adults of tomorrow!
Longtime contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of McDonald's and enjoys General Mills' Lucky Charms cereal most mornings for breakfast. Disney is a Stock Advisor pick. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.