Column: Teach children financial literacy, K-12
The current catastrophe should cause all of us to think about teaching the children in our ohana the what, how, why and where of being financially literate.
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A tragic outcome unfolds before us as we are witness to hundreds of thousands of families suffering from the fallout of trying to cope without paychecks. Not a one of us fails to feel compassionate about such a situation, and then ask ourselves how we would get by or provide for ourselves and or our families if we found ourselves in the same or similar circumstances.
In my years in business consulting and as a Certified Financial Planner, we constantly advocated that any planning, personal or for business, should include disaster/emergency planning. Here in real life is a tragedy of huge proportion, and from a different perspective, provides us with immediate reason why financial literacy is paramount as a part of our K-12 education.
As a child I remember the emphasis my parents put on saving money. As educators or even especially as parents, we can help teach our kids to be acutely aware of how important basic money concepts such as saving, spending and sharing can be applied in daily living.
One idea might be to start our preschool students off by taking them to the bank with us on our next trip and “talking aloud” to them about the functions of a bank, what it does, how and why to start saving, setting a goal for their savings, introducing them to the teller, setting up an account (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act/custodial account), etc.
Or, another idea is just using a piggy bank to save a proportion of their Christmas gift money and talking to them about the benefits of doing so, and later what to do with the saved money.
As each child matures into grade school, let’s make the time to take them shopping with us, teaching them to analyze the quality of fruits and vegetables, buying seasonal fruits when they are at their peak quality and least expensive, showing them labels and how to critique value versus price, how to best use or double up on coupon savings and show how it is possible to buy and store (paying attention to “best use by dates”) and thereby taking advantage of current sale prices.
Then when our children are in middle school, let’s teach them exceptional budgeting skills by perhaps giving them a financial allotment over a course of several months, and then showing them how they need to return to you cost of living expenses such as rent, utilities and food.
Don’t forget to categorize other expenses for them, for example: disaster funds, entertainment/leisure general savings, pets, transportation, credit card fees/charges, gifts, health care, insurance, taxes, vacation and so forth. Here is where we can reinforce that no plan, whether personal or business, should be without emergency funds — at least six to 12 months worth of living/business expenses.
In high school, they can start applying their critical money skills to an analysis of cost of higher education or buying a car with a parent/teacher as a mentor or guide. All the while, with our own experiences, we are growing our children not only with superior financial skills, but with abilities to think critically about any situation that might arise in their lives. And all this started with the development of good financial habits and a fundamental understanding of money and how it works in our economic world.
So out of this disaster, and perhaps with some of the above ideas, a future good can be gained. The current catastrophe should cause all of us to think about teaching the children in our ohana the what, how, why and where of being financially literate.