by John Lanza
My mom recently sent my daughter a heartfelt, written card with $15 dollars inside. In front of Abraham Lincoln’s face on each of the three five spots was a yellow sticky note. The first read “Share,” the second “Save” and the last “Spend Smart.” Our eight-year-old quickly deposited the money in her Share, Save and Spend Smart jars. She was very excited, as was I.
In these difficult times, as families begin to refocus on the basics and recognize the importance of teaching their kids financial literacy from a young age, I’m seeing more grandparents getting the message from their kids to tone down spending on their grandkids. We set up an allowance system with my daughter three years before and had a nice discussion with my mom about how we really wanted to reduce consumption as a family and teach both our daughters to make smart money choices. It was so gratifying that she understood this, because I had heard friends complain of parents who were inundating grandkids with too much “stuff.” I’m glad we were able to have the conversation we did, which included diverting “stuff” money into our 529 or our charter school. The kids will certainly appreciate this when they’re older. Of course, kids live in the present. But, rather than “stuff,” the most important thing any kid wants is TIME with their grandparents. We’re lucky because they get a good dose of that as well.
Grandparents can also be true role models when it comes to giving back to the community. Our kids have that Share jar for charitable giving. Their grandparents can suggest that they give to the charities they support. There’s a conversation on the subject, and it helps the grandkids learn. To illustrate the importance of giving in your family, show your grandkids the donation check you’re writing. Even better, have them give you their Share jar money and include that amount in the check. Your grandkids will beam with pride and learn a great lesson to boot. Also, bringing your grandkids along for a volunteer day is a great way to teach kids the importance of charitable use of time, which is needed just as much as money.
I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who grew up in the depression — and who’s still around, I might add. His advice to me was to “live beneath my means” and “understand the value of compound interest.” I haven’t always heeded his advice, but I know I’m on the right track when I do. We used to make fun of his monochromatic, bargain clothes. Now I see that he was living the lesson he was teaching. We should all be so lucky.
John Lanza is the Chief Mammal at Snigglezoo Entertainment, Creator of the Dr. Toy award-winning Money Mammals DVD & book, Joe the Monkey Saves for a Goal, that helps kids learn to “Share & Save & Spend Smart Too” and the recently published Joe the Monkey Learns to Share. Lanza also runs The Money Mammals Saving Money Is Fun Kids Club for credit unions nationwide and blogs, tweets and writes often about youth financial literacy. Find out more at www.themoneymammals.com