Raising Money Savvy Kids: Start With Yourself

Jan 17, 2014

When it comes to money, every family is different. It goes without saying that there are things that work for some families that don't work for others. There are also varying degrees of discussion and openness regarding finances within families. As parents, you choose when and how to discuss money matters with your children. But more and more, being financially literate is a topic that has parents and teachers talking. 

If you want to teach kids about money, you need to learn about money and how to manage it first.

So what does it mean to be financially literate? The Federal Task Force on Financial Literacy define it as "having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions." According to the task force, nearly 50% of adult Canadians struggle with simple number and math tasks. There is also little to no mandatory education about money in schools. So how can parents and teachers teach children about money if they lack a general understanding of money concepts and management themselves?

For co-author and financial expert Gordon Pape, the answer is simple. If you want to teach kids about money, you need to learn about money and how to manage it first. You simply can't teach what you don't know yourself, he says. "Money knowledge means just that--you know how things work, from budgets to investing. Money management means that you are putting that knowledge into action. There's no point going to all the trouble of mastering a skill-set if you don't make use of it," says Pape.

For those who claim not be good with numbers, there are many online resources and apps that can do the calculations for you, adds Pape. All you need is the motivation to find them. In his book, Money Savvy Kids: The Best Ways to Teach Your Children about Money for a Strong Financial Future, Pape talks about his humble beginnings and having to learn about the value of money on his own. Back then, money transactions were done with actual physical money rather than the likes of credit and debit today. Co-author (and Pape's daughter) Deborah Kerbel also talks about her financial "literacy" growing up, admitting her parents didn't know or talk to her much about money until she was well into her teens. 

[Pape and Kerbel] also recommend talking to your kids about money from an early age, like five or six.

Kerbel offers a refreshing honesty discussing the checks and balances of parenting kids today, rule making and negotiating things like your child's allowance or budget. Pape and Kerbel recommend introducing kids' budgets from age nine as a way to track money and encourage saving. They also recommend talking to your kids about money from an early age, like five or six. As they get older, you can talk with your kids about consumer debt, budgeting, and investing. And eventually, you learn about money together and teach each other through various good (and bad) money decisions. For parents seeking basic guidelines to teach kids about money, the book offers several money commandments embedded in common sense. "Don't give kids everything they ask for or they'll develop a strong sense of entitlement," says Pape. "If you say no, mean it and stick to it--otherwise your life will be made miserable by whining children," he adds. "And above all, never contradict your spouse." For more information about the book and money tips, visit

Article Author Natalia Diaz
Natalia Diaz

Natalia Diaz is passionate about education and raising readers. She has been working in media education for the last 10 years as senior editor at Scholastic Education, as editor of, and as writer and producer at TVOntario and the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). Currently, she is a contributing editor for Owlkids Magazine. She lives with her family in Markham, Ontario.

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