5 Reasons I Refuse to Die Before Teaching My Grandchildren About Money

by Dana George | Published on Nov. 14, 2021

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An older woman sitting on the couch and looking stressed.

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As we teach our children to navigate the world, we too often forget to teach them to manage money.

Key points

  • If kids don't learn about personal finance at home, there's a good chance they're not going to learn about it.
  • What children learn about money today can protect them in the future.

I'm wiser today than I was when I was raising my sons, and that's a shame. I look back on how much energy I put into focusing on silly things when my boys were growing up and wonder how different things might have been if I'd focused a little more on teaching them about personal finance.

These guys went away to college with very little financial know-how. They didn't have a checking account (Mom and Dad footed the bill for everything), didn't understand how compound interest could either make them rich or poor and had no idea how to get started investing. Fortunately, things worked out, and they're both great with personal finance, but it could have easily gone south.

Today, we have three young granddaughters, and I am determined to teach them everything they need to know about making money work for them before I die. There are at least five reasons for this.

1. Protection

I'll be honest here. I'm not sure how important this would be to me if it weren't for what I've learned over the years about financial abuse. According to The National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases. I would not care if I had granddaughters or grandsons; there is no way on Earth I'm sending the next generation of our family out into the world without the solid armor of knowledge.

The girls were still in diapers when I began talking to them about the importance of making their own money. I'd slip it in on walks to the park or games of Monopoly Jr. I'd talk to them about finding a career they love and creating their own financial nest, totally separate from anyone else's financial nest. She can do anything she wants, but she must always be able to stand on her own. We can help protect children by teaching them to be financially independent.

2. Demystify finances

The truth is, the earlier we start talking to children about finances, the less intimidating it seems. It's like learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language. The earlier we start, the easier it is to absorb. My husband and I send them an allowance each week, and they understand that some of it is for spending and a portion is for saving.

The 8-year-old has been investing in Schwab Stock Slices for a couple of years, choosing her own stocks from the S&P 500 list, and watching how her portfolio performs. She's learning about compound interest, risk, and the importance of investing for the long term via real-world investing. By the time she's an adult, this will be old hat, a familiar way to handle money. And it all began with buying tiny slices of stocks of companies she recognized.

3. It's not a "thing" in the U.S.

An international financial literacy test of 15-year-olds revealed that the U.S. ranked 7th out of 15 countries, coming in behind countries like Australia, Russia, Canada, and China. What that means is that many kids are not learning how to handle finances at home or in school. I want our girls to be exceptions.

4. Teach our values

I recently interviewed 8-year-old Travis Brown, one of the winners of a personal finance contest sponsored by OneUnited Bank. One of his quotes has stuck with me. Travis said, "Kids need to learn to count money. For example, if you're in a store, the cashier may give you the wrong change. Four quarters may not mean much to you, but that dollar would mean a lot to a homeless person."

It's clear Travis's parents have illustrated the importance of considering others. Yes, they've taught their son about money, but more importantly, they've used those lessons to help instill their values as a family. I want to do the same.

5. Boost their confidence

I first heard of a book called The Confidence Code for Girls a couple of years ago. The authors, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay worked with a polling firm that focuses on tweens and teens. They surveyed more than 1,300 girls from ages 8 to 18, along with their parents.

The surveys found that between ages 8 and 14, girls' confidence levels fall by 30%. Things like overthinking, people-pleasing, and perfectionism kick in, and some girls have trouble bouncing back and reclaiming their confidence.

It's not just girls. According to licensed clinical psychologist Rachel Busman, boys' self-confidence is at risk because of gender stereotypes. When a boy doesn't believe he meets societal expectations, he's left feeling inadequate. And boys rarely have outlets to express their feelings.

All this to say, why not do everything we can to boost the confidence of the children in our lives? It's not just financial know-how we're offering. It's one on one attention, and it's a constant message that we care about them. Finally, it's a reminder that tomorrow will come. After all, that's what personal finances are all about – planning for the future.

Christmas this year will include some traditional gifts, but you better believe there will also be money-related presents. For the 3-year-old, it's a cute book called Money Ninja. The 6-year-old will find a package of play money in her stocking, perfect for practicing money counting skills. And the 8-year-old is receiving her first budget book, a place to track money in and money out.

I've been told (more than once) that I'm being ridiculous. I do not care. I will teach the children in my life how to take care of themselves financially – even if it's the last thing I do.

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