April 22 is Teach Children to Save Day! Learning how to save is a fundamental part of financial literacy. The saving strategies and lessons you teach your kids today can help them reach goals and achieve better financial stability in adulthood.
How to teach kids to save
Pre-school (2-5 years old)
Keep things simple for this age group. Start by helping them decipher between a want and a need. They obviously won’t have to worry about bills for a while, but you can explain some non-negotiables in your own budget using language they understand. For example, the yummy food they eat for dinner or the electricity that keeps the lights on in their room.
This age groups’ understanding of money is largely based on what they can see or touch, so consider incorporating some hands-on activities. For example, games about identifying coins. You can create a saving lesson around this by helping your child correctly identify a coin, then having them deposit it into a clear piggy bank. They’ll be able to see their money accumulate over time.
Elementary school (5-10 years old)
Many money habits are already set by the time a child turns 7. This makes their elementary school years extremely formative to their long-term financial well-being. For this reason, it’s important to evaluate your own saving habits and the example you’re setting. Help them see the importance of saving by practicing positive habits like tracking expenses or delaying gratification.
At this age they can also understand more complicated concepts like cause and effect. Take them shopping with an allowance to put their critical thinking to the test. For example, they may see a board game at the store and want to buy it. Remind them that doing so has a cause and effect. They can enjoy the board game now, but it may come at the expense of not being able to afford something else in the future. Present an alternative: continue saving and delay gratification. In time, they may have enough money to afford something pretty awesome!
Middle school (11-13 years old)
Though middle schoolers have varying levels of maturity, they’re at the developmental age where they want to make their own money. To aid this goal, you could give them more responsibility around the house. Consider assigning larger “pay outs” to chores you may have previously reserved for the adults, like pulling yard weeds or vacuuming. Your child may also try to forge their own path to making money by raking a neighbor’s leaves or setting up a lemonade stand. Whatever the method, their humble piggy bank could soon accumulate a substantial amount.
This is your chance to introduce more advanced budgeting skills. Sit down and help them brainstorm things they want to save for. Maybe a new pair of shoes for the school mixer or a popular video game. Help them calculate how much they can expect to make in allowance a week and how long it will take them to reach a savings goal. This will facilitate their understanding of the dollar’s value, hard work, and consistency.
Middle schoolers are also more likely to ask questions because they don’t take information at face value. Nurture this independent thinking by engaging in conversations with them about saving. Guide them to the right conclusions while respecting their curiosity and individualism.
High school (14-18 years old)
High school-aged kids may have more responsibility. Between the ages of 15 and 16 they may get their driver’s license, land their first job, and start preparing for college or a higher education alternative. You should be reinforcing the lessons you taught them earlier in life but with a wider scope. Help them see how saving can help them achieve both short- and long-term goals. For example, if they want to go to college, you may encourage them to commit a certain percentage of each paycheck to the cost of tuition. If you’re able, you could even surprise them by matching their savings when the time comes!
Another financial milestone your high schooler may reach is opening their first savings account. The required age to open one may differ depending on the financial institution, so contact yours to confirm whether your child is eligible.
And lastly, remember to give your high schooler some grace. They’re doing a lot of things for the first time, and that means they may make mistakes. Allow them to make one or two. The lessons they learn as a result, and the independence you instill in them, will last with them into adulthood.
Here at General Electric Credit Union (GECU), we understand your child’s financial literacy is important to you. Whether you’re teaching them how to save or how to responsibly manage their first checking account, we have a wealth of free resources and tools at your disposal to help concepts hit home. These include new blog content published weekly, webinars (including recordings of past webinars on Youtube), savings calculators, and so much more!
When your child is ready for their first savings and checking account, schedule an in-branch appointment so they can sit down with a dedicated GECU team member. We’re happy to answer any questions you or your child may have.