It’s an overwhelming feeling most of us recall vividly – that first job, the first month of rent to pay and the exhilarating yet terrifying knowledge that we have to keep ourselves alive for the rest of the month for the very first time.
For those with children in school, a new experience awaits: watching your own child navigate those same hurdles. And yet, it doesn’t have to be a gauntlet for them like it was for us. In a few simple steps, you can set your child up to leave the nest more confident and wise than your own former self.
The younger they start, the better
You may feel that you want your children to grow up unencumbered by the stress of money. In fact, many parents who grew up in relatively poor circumstances want to lavish finances on their children to the point where they don’t even think about money…
Until they leave the house, that is.
It’s important to understand that the later a person starts to think about managing their own money, the scarier it is. Teaching your children the importance of rands and cents as early as possible is not only better for you, but significantly less stressful for them. As soon as your children are old enough to understand the value of money and the arithmetic behind counting coins, teach them how to draft a budget. Make it as fun as possible and empower them young with their pocket money.
… but don’t make it all about spending
Many savvy parents teach their children about money from a young age – but almost always with a mind to spending.
‘You can save up your R50 now instead of spending it on sweets today so that you can afford that game you want in two months’ time.’
While this does teach kids the vital importance of budgeting to an extent, it also tacitly enforces a zero-savings mindset. From as young as possible, teach kids that they should never spend all of their money and always have something in savings. For example, tell them that, if they save R5 in their piggy bank each month, you will give them R50 at the end of six months. If they leave that R50 where it is, they can get R100 at the end of the year. This alone will set your children up to succeed where many South Africans fail – having the benefit of compound interest from early on. Also offer your advice to help them pick out their first savings account and retirement or living annuity when they leave home.
Rainy day smarts
Also, emphasise the wisdom of having emergency savings separate to general savings. The benefits of a short-term safety net are numerous and ensure that, should something happen to you or to the economy, your child will able to weather the storm. This tip is often the hardest for parents to take because an important part of this with older children is letting them bump their heads a few times.
If they haven’t got emergency savings or insurance and they’re in a bumper bashing, for example, don’t just rush in to save the day. Ask them about what steps they had taken to safeguard against misfortune and let them see that it’s up to them and no one else to ensure that they thrive financially without getting crippled by twists of fate.
And remember: the better you teach your children financially now, the better they’ll be able to look after themselves – and you – later.