I was picking up my child from school today, when I saw another kid (Grade 4 or 5) ask their mum if they could go to Disney this summer. The mum said “No, we can’t afford it” and what ensued was a pure battle with the child and her mother. Exasperated, the mum looked at me and said, “they don’t get it, do they?”.
I didn’t answer back, but what I wanted to say is, “No they don’t” and “No they won’t until we include them in these conversations.”
I am constantly concerned at how kids today are lacking and uninterested in money management - but this is not just their fault. Many women in my generation with kids have shielded their children from any exposure to the hard and bad world of money in order to protect them.
Several mums my age will agree, when I said that our mothers did not have any problems telling us they couldn’t afford things. Yet, today my friends seem to have that problem. This is because we somehow believe that in not telling our child that we cannot afford something, we are keeping then a "child" a bit longer. Allowing them to perhaps enjoy a bit more of their childhood before they have to deal with money. The world of finance is far too complicated for a child, we think. But is it?
I firmly believe that the time to include kids in the discussions on money and family finances is overdue. Our decisions impact them and they need to be involved in the conversations that take place at home on money. More importantly, we need them to be able to understand the concept of money management and get them more educated so that when faced with the same choices, they do not make the same mistakes.
A child should already have a fair understanding of money before you give them their phone. They should have an understanding of how to preserve, if not grow, their money before they go out to work. And really, they should understand the quotient of value vs. enjoyment before they go out and spend their first hard earned dollar on something of no value or enjoyment.
But how do we do that? How do we start a national discussion on financial literacy with kids right at the elementary school level? How do we start to get children from Grade 1 so familiar with money management that it becomes second nature to them?
The provincial plan of starting Financial Literacy from Grade 7 onwards may be a small step in the right way but it is not nearly enough. Most kids in Grade 7 have already racked up bills on their phones, they have already spent more than a reasonable amount on toys and latest gadgets that provide entertainment for a scant few minutes, and they have already developed the sense of entitlement without the notion of “work for your money”.
Kids are going to go into hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world where it's all about Instagram. Keeping up with others on Instagram is far more expensive than keeping up with the Joneses. It is therefore imperative for them to have a sound foundation in money management and understand investing so that they start off on a right foot.