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On Teaching Financial Responsibility

How did you learn what you know about personal finance? Do you remember your parents teaching you how to manage money? Did they tell you, as I recall mine telling me, that “money doesn’t grow on trees”? We knew that. None of us had ever seen a money tree after all. Still, more than likely we did not understand where money came from.

Somehow we learned that people work, earn wages, and spend that money to meet their needs and support their families. Growing up with a deep understanding of the difference between needs and wants is fundamental to learning money management. When we truly understand that difference, figuring out how to live within a budget and how to save money make sense. Staying on budget and saving take diligence, and the unexpected challenges our resolve. That’s why the sooner we begin learning, the better.

Many parents teach the importance of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” by assigning chores and paying allowances based on the completion of those duties. In this scenario, assigning monetary value to each task makes the relationship between work accomplished and money earned clearer and reduces misunderstanding of the consequences of failing to do what’s expected.

Others believe that children, as members of the family, need to share in household chores. Assigning tasks in age appropriate ways allows children to learn life skills and teaches responsibility, teamwork, and cooperation. “Many hands make light – or at least lighter – work,” and we all need to contribute to the process.

Staying upbeat and making a game of the chores takes the sting out of doing what everyone would likely rather not have to do. We’ve all heard the expression “whistle while you work.” Try that. Hum. Sing. Skip from task to task.

Some families set a timer and everyone focuses on accomplishing tasks as quickly as possible. When time’s up, everyone stops working and moves on to something else  – perhaps a solitary pleasure or a family activity. One person may curl up with a book. Another may prefer a walk around the block. Actually the entire family could gather round and listen as someone reads aloud, then everyone could head outdoors and explore the neighborhood. Working and playing together are natural partners.

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