Financial literacy is one of the primary life skills that some argue we fail to teach adequately in middle schools today. That leaves the responsibility for educating middle school students squarely on the shoulders of today’s parents. Many of these parents feel they are entirely unqualified to teach on the subject, due to their money struggles.
Whether you feel like you are barely managing to manage your money or that it is ultimately managing you, only you can help your children avoid similar struggles as they enter the workforce and begin managing their finances.
These are a few vital lessons your middle schooler needs to know – as a foundation for greater financial literacy later in life.
Your child needs to understand where the money comes from and that it is mostly an exchange of one thing for another. Earning money comes mainly from the fruits of their labor. Whether they labor mentally or physically, there is work required to make money. Once they understand this fundamental fact and see it in action in their lives, they can begin to comprehend its value on a different level. It is only then that they begin to correlate the value of the things they want to buy with the amount of time and effort needed to earn money to do so.
Let your middle schooler help with grocery, food, and clothing shopping. It gives real-world experience for understanding how much things cost. Consider helping your child get real work experience by doing the following:
- Give your child a grocery budget for the week. Consider putting it on a prepaid debit card your child can take to the store.
- Have your child scan local sales papers and plan a menu for the week based on what’s on sale.
- Ask your child to make a list of all the things needed to make five dinners for the family within the budget you have set. Work with your child to make sure you either have everything you need in your pantry or on the list.
- Take your child to the supermarket with the list and debit card and allow your child to choose the items (helping them select fruits, vegetables, cuts of meat, etc.) and conduct the transaction.
By the end of the shopping trip, your child will have learned a valuable lesson about the costs of groceries for a household and have a new appreciation for what you go through each week to keep food on the table. More importantly, your child will understand the process of spending money on essential items, like food and groceries.
Saving and Investing
One of the most challenging lessons to teach middle school students in today’s consumer-driven society is the value of saving rather than spending. It is hard to instill these values when all around them, people are buying the next new thing to hit the market as soon as it comes out.
However, teaching them young to put half of their earnings into savings allows them to watch their savings snowball, and encourages them to prioritize their spending, so they only spend on what matters.
Once they have a sizable amount saved, you can show them the value of investing and how that can kick their savings efforts into high gear!
Borrowing is a tricky issue to tackle with children. Some middle school children will struggle with the concept that money borrowed must be repaid. However, requiring your middle school child to return borrowed money fosters an even greater appreciation of the “contract” whether written or implied, of borrowing money and the importance of repaying it promptly. You might also want to consider creating penalties, late fees, or “interest” for your child if the money is not paid back as agreed.
Takeaways You Can Use to Build Your Child’s Money IQ
Teaching middle school children valuable lessons about money is something you can do, even if you are struggling with money yourself.
- Communicate honestly with your child about money.
- Allow your child practical experience with budgeting and spending money.
- Help your child stay the course and watch his or her savings grow, so they know investment gains are possible and probable.
- Ensure your child understands what it means to borrow money and why it is so important to repay it as promised.
Use the advice above to help your middle schooler handle, manage, borrow, and spend more responsibly.