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Guidelines for talking to kids of all ages about money

This morning, I woke up to my little daughter asking, “Mommy, you can cuddle fo’ one little minute or do ya hafta bring home da bacon today?”

Teaching kids about money is scary, especially if you feel like you don’t have a good handle on it yourself. But the good news is, you don’t have to be an expert to talk about money with your kids – you just have to do it, any way you know how. Here are some guidelines from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

For all ages: Talk about money as it comes up in regular conversation. When you pay the bills, go to the store or do the banking, tell them what you’re doing and why.

Teach them how to look at advertising critically and how to resist those tantalizing sales pitches.

Pre-K to second grade: Talk about how money is made and used. Teach them the values of different currency and how to count it. You can help them open a savings account, but a jar or piggy bank helps them practice saving in a more tangible way. Talk about the difference between a need (food) and a want (a Happy Meal). Teach responsible borrowing – not with money, but with library books or toys borrowed from siblings. Create a list of the items borrowed along with a schedule of when each is due back.

Third through fifth grades: Cultivate little discount divas and discount dudes by practicing comparison shopping in stores and online. Let them help make the grocery list, and show them how to compare unit prices and quality on the shelf, then work together to stick to your list and budget.

Sixth through eighth grades: Let them practice earning money by starting a mini business or doing odd jobs for neighbors.

At age 14, they can get their working papers and apply for a real part-time job. That will give you the opportunity to go over their pay stub with them and talk about taxes in a way that won’t put them to sleep. When they see that not all the money they earn ends up in their own pockets, you’ll suddenly have a very attentive listener.

Talk about the magic of compounding interest and set long-term savings goals. Set aside money for church tithes or charities and talk about why it’s important to give back. Talk about identity theft and fraud.

Ninth through 12th grades: At this age, you’ll start getting lots of real-world examples that make personal finance a more interesting subject for your learning grasshopper.

The freedom of the real world is almost in their grasp, and they’re thinking every day about who and what they want to be. They’ll have an idea of what they want their lifestyle to look like, and you can help them understand what it will take to snag the kind of financial future they have in mind.

The subject of cars is also bound to come up. You’ll have lots of opportunities to talk about the benefits and responsibilities that come with that – insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs. Sit together to figure out how your teen can secure a car and then sustain it.

Adulthood: You’re in the big leagues now. Financial decisions about college, loans, financing and credit cards have very big consequences.

Help them find the credit union or bank that is right for them. If they decide to go to college, help them understand that student loans are forever and must be paid back. Work together to find financial aid, and do lots of research to find the most favorable student loan terms.

email: or tweet @DiscountDivaSam

Talk about money as it comes up in regular conversation.