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Money Smarts For Kids

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Raising financially responsible kids isn't simply about teaching them how to balance a checkbook. Rather, there are other equally important lessons that children need to learn that don't require money, math or piggy banks. These include learning self control, patience and hard work, just to name a few. If you're not actively working to teach your children wise money management skills because you think they're too young, you may want to reconsider.

According to census data, more than 12 million Hispanics live in poverty, so learning financial literacy is one of the crucial skills from which we can all benefit to help break the cycle.

A 2013 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company study suggests Latina moms are trying to actively educate their children about finances and involve them in the family budgeting. I can totally relate, as I've been working hard on teaching my kids to be financially responsible. In fact, it is so important to me that I made it a part of our homeschool curriculum.

When I was a little girl, I didn't learn the value of money at school. There were no classes on the benefits of saving or how to spend wisely. Instead, it was series of moments spent with my abuelita that left an impression and formed my relationship with money. She carefully managed her checkbook, routinely visited the bank to deposit money in her savings, and was always quick to help those who were financially insecure — rituals that made her an excellent teacher about money.

Unfortunately, most children still aren't taught financial literacy in schools today. So whether parents realize it or not, that responsibility falls on our shoulders. But how many parents actually take the time to teach their kids the importance of saving and setting financial goals?

Part of the problem is that unless you've been trained yourself, it's hard to know where to start and what concepts to teach. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you help your children develop their money savvy skills:

1. You don't have to wait to start training your child.

Begin at preschool age by teaching your child that sometimes he or she has to wait and save to get a toy. This will help your child develop patience instead of instant gratification. You can also have your child make his or her own banks out of oatmeal containers or small boxes: one for saving, one for giving, and one for spending.

2. Tie allowances to chores.

It's important for kids to learn that money has to be earned and that people don't just give them money for nothing. Earning an allowance helps kids develop a strong work ethic and to be proud of their accomplishments.

3. Make it fun. Every month, make a game of counting coins and dollars. This will not only help your child with seeing the importance of saving, but also help his or her counting skills.

4. Use a dry erase board to create a chore chart.

You can use clear tape on top to keep the words from erasing, but take it off when you're ready to make changes to it as your child grows and is able to do more things.

5. Make it special.

Praise your child as their savings grows, but don't forget to take them shopping with their spending money! Guide your child on how to give to those in need by using the money from their giving bank (for example: purchase coats, shoes, or food to donate).

Here are three more resources to help parents teach kids financial responsibility:

"For Me, For You, For Later"

With preschoolers in mind, Sesame Street has created the parent toolkit, "For Me, For You, For Later." This multimedia program uses some of your child's favorite characters from Sesame Street to learn about things like helping others, making choices, and other related topics. The toolkit also offers free printables, as well as pages for parents and educators. The best part is that it is available in English and Spanish!

"Financial Peace Junior"

Financial author Dave Ramsey's awesome kit for kids ages 3-12 includes a quick-start guide, parent guide, activity book, give, save and spend envelopes, calculator, and a wet-erase chore chart. I'm using this kit with my own kids and love how it makes saving and goal setting fun. I also like how it gives parents suggestions for implementing the program, but leaves the control in our hands.

"The Financial Fairy Tales" Book Series"

Author and educator Daniel Britton has created a series of books designed to teach children about money and the values and skills necessary for responsible money management. The three books and the activity book are described as a complete home study course for children. The series is available in print or via Kindle.

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