Financial literacy is a great gift to give your kids, but how can you do it most effectively?
Teaching kids how to manage money and instilling the value of work in them when they're young is one of the best ways to raise financially literate and responsible adults. Figuring out how to accomplish this task, however, can be tough. Your friends, colleagues, and even your own parents probably have their own ideas about a host of potentially thorny issues such as allowances, whether or not kids should know how much their parents make (and be involved in family budget-setting), and if and when teens should get jobs.
There’s no shortage of books and websites out there that claim to teach your kids how to master managing their money. But what are the best resources? We put that question to the experts — and found that a handful of books rose to the top for garnering rave reviews from people who do family financial education for a living.
Here are their top picks, which can double as a great graduation gift guide for students.
Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win With Money by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
"This book is filled with real-life practical stories about how to help your kids understand the value of hard work and contribution,” says Andy Hill, founder of the site MarriageKidsandMoney.com. He says Smart Money Smart Kids has been a good tool for establishing the link between putting in the effort and earning monetary rewards with his own kids.
“When they complete their chores, they get paid. Now, instead of asking me for $20 for her favorite new toy, my daughter now asks, ‘Dad, when can I do my chores?’,” Hill says.
Kids who ask to do their chores? If it sounds too good to be true, check this book out.
Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You're Not): A Parents' Guide for Kids 3 to 23 by Beth Kobliner
“What I particularly liked about it was that it explains financial concepts so well to parents first,” she says. One reason teaching kids about money can be daunting is some people don’t feel they have a good grasp of personal finance themselves. This book eliminates that excuse, Lincicum says.
Beth Kobliner's book tackles tricky money-related questions that don’t fall neatly into a typical financial education category. “It also has concrete examples of how to deal with typical issues that arise — such as a child's tantrum when you don't buy them something — and how to cover financial concepts at each stage of childhood,” she says.
Linicicum praises the way Kobliner teaches kids how (and why) to give back too. “That's important to me as a parent, so I appreciated her including it,” she says.
The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber
The Opposite of Spoiled, by New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber, was a favorite of two professors who specialize in family money topics. Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University, calls it “an excellent guidebook for instilling a value-based money mentality in your children and helping them become conscientious money stewards.”
Ashley LeBaron, a professor of family science at the University of Arizona, vouches for the book’s thoughtful approach and pragmatic suggestions. “It not only provides parents practical ideas for how they can teach their kids about money, it also gets parents thinking about the values they want to instill in their children — the kind of people they want their children to become,” she says.
Raised Healthy, Wealthy & Wise: Lessons from successful and grounded inheritors on how they got that way by Coventry Edwards-Pitt
"What’s great about this book is you hear from the children who have been raised with the principles of the book,” Susan Beacham, CEO of Money Savvy Generation, says of Raised Healthy, Wealthy & Wise: Lessons from successful and grounded inheritors on how they got that way.
The book focuses on wealthy parents, but Beacham says the lessons it offers are worthwhile for everyone. “You hear this poignant, lovely feedback from the 21-year-old and the 22-year-old who hated chores but then understood the discipline. That’s what makes this book transformational, because it shows parents the outcome.”
So when you need some motivation if your kid is flipping out for an overpriced toy or sulking because “everybody else” has the latest game or gadget, this book will inspire you to stay the course.
Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt
Lincicum singles out Raising Financially Confident Kids as a must-have resource, saying it gives readers an allowance method she uses with her own kids. “It has been the best way to teach how to budget, so much more effective than us sharing our family budget,” Lincicum says.
Here's how the book’s unorthodox strategy works: “Each of our kids is responsible for the types of expenses that most parents provide for their kids — entertainment, haircuts, clothing, etc.,” Lincicum says. Giving kids more autonomy over how they spend money lets them learn about choices, delayed gratification, and the value of work in a low-stakes environment, rather than years later when they’re out of the house and trying to make rent or paying off credit card debt.
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