Financial Literacy Guide for Children: 20+ Resources to Introduce Money Management
Financial emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. They can arise as a result of a pandemic, family illness, job loss, urgent home repairs, weather events, and more. When sudden events occur, it may not always be immediately apparent that you are heading toward financial hardship. If you’re worried about money, you’re not alone; according to the American Psychological Association (APA), 72 percent of adults report feeling stressed about money.
Research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank shows that households with children are among the most vulnerable to an income shock, such as economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Money management is a critical life skill — and one that should be taught like any other key skill or competency — and COVID-19 is an important reminder that younger generations should be equipped with financial literacy knowledge before they experience an unexpected event. While most parents today feel it’s their responsibility to teach their children financial literacy, most have not been successful at it. Furthermore, a national study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) showed similar findings for teachers, revealing that less than 20 percent feel competent enough to teach financial literacy topics in the classroom.
Today’s economic uncertainty has brought the need for financial literacy to the forefront, as 75 percent of Americans say they have taken steps to adjust their personal finances. With job loss, market uncertainty, reduced income, and other financial issues caused by COVID-19, this article was designed to help parents and educators teach financial literacy to children, teens, and people with developmental or learning disabilities, while providing a number of fintech-related resources to help simplify the process.
Helping Children Become Financially Literate — Resources for Children and Parents
Providing children with firsthand experience in earning, saving, and spending money increases the likelihood that they’ll develop the framework necessary to manage their personal finances as adults, says Marguerita Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. If you’re looking to help your child become financially literate, here are seven tips that may be valuable for you as you’re getting started.
1. Model Your Own Spending Decisions
Your spending habits will likely influence how your children manage their allowances and treat money later as an adult. Cheng recommends finding opportunities in your daily activities to model how you make spending decisions. For example, grocery shopping is a great opportunity to teach them planning, shopping, and budgeting skills. Have them bag groceries with you at the checkout so they can begin understanding food budgeting, says Cheng.
2. Teach Them to Budget Their Own Cash
Allowances are a great way to teach children money management. Try encouraging your children to limit their spending choices with their weekly or monthly earnings and teach them to save regularly. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) suggests visiting a financial institution with your child and opening a savings account; this will allow your children to manage their money in a way that you can easily monitor.
3. Explain the Importance of Living Within (or Below) Your Means
Teaching children this concept is challenging because they tend to live in the moment and purchase based on emotional impulses, says Bankaroo. To help your child understand the concept of living within or below their means, Bankaroo suggests staying firm when it comes to allowances. If your child doesn’t get more money from you after they have overspent, they will learn to think more critically about how they use their money.
4. Explain Short- vs. Long-Term Goals
If your child has something expensive on their wish list, explain to them that it is a long-term goal, and encourage them to save up, says Michael Pearn from TheSimpleDollar. Encourage your child to continue setting goals, such as saving up for a new school trip, car, or college.
5. Teach Them the Value of Opportunity Cost
It’s important to teach your children to weigh options and understand the possible outcomes of a decision. For example, if your child wants to use their allowance to buy a video game, explain that by purchasing it, they may no longer have money for other things like a streaming subscription. This is an exercise in rational thought that “becomes second nature to your children,” says Chad Jones, a former Finance and Accounting Officer to the U.S. Forces.
6. Talk to Them About Responsible Credit Use
When used responsibly, credit cards can be a safe and convenient way to make purchases, earn rewards, and build credit. When your children are old enough to understand how credit works, consider allowing them to borrow a small amount of extra money from you to make a major purchase, says Credit Counselling Society. Eventually you can help them open a credit card so they begin establishing their own credit history.
7. Teach Them About Loans
Many children don’t understand how money is earned or borrowed. For example, they likely don’t realize that their parents don’t “own” the place they call home. The National Foundation for Credit Counselling (NFCC) suggests taking time to teach children how loans work and the importance of paying off all debts and loans on time and regularly.
Past research has shown that children learn more about finances from their parents than any other source. Although it may seem like financial literacy wouldn’t interest children and teens, a MediaCom study found that 68 percent of teens agree that starting to save early on in life is important. For older children who grew up in the 2007 –2009 recession, and for the children now living through COVID-19, here are some additional financial literacy and tech resources to get them started:
Financial Literacy Resources for Children (ages 6 – 12)
- Bankaroo teaches kids to manage their budgets, save up for goals, and be money smart. In Bankaroo, kids have access to their own virtual bank accounts that parents can add funds to as they wish or in the form of a scheduled allowance.
- iAllowance is a helpful tool for you to manage your kids’ allowances using real money. The app allows you to create incentives and use push notifications to remind your kids to finish their duties in time to receive their money.
- RoosterMoney is a free kids’ allowance and chores app. It is designed to help parents teach their children how to manage allowances, set chores, and save for goals.
- Money Monster story series focuses on important money concepts like borrowing, earning, protecting, saving, and spending to help introduce children to ideas, habits, and activities they will need as they grow up and start to manage their own money.
Financial Literacy for Teens (ages 12 –19)
- MoneyThink Mobile has been dubbed the “Instagram for money.” Teens complete digital challenges that build financial awareness, habits, and skills. After completion, they are rewarded with points and social affirmation (in the form of digital likes and comments), similar to the photo sharing platform.
- FamZoo has been featured in both The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. It is designed to help teens take more responsibility for their own personal (real-life) spending, while helping them understand how to budget and how to save.
- Mindblown Labs offers financial education presented as a game, helping teens learn about finances and retirement in a fun, exciting way.
- NEFE’s High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) makes it easy to empower teens with money management skills. Teachers and parents can order printed booklets or download the free turnkey curriculum.
Helping Students Become Financially Literate — Resources for Teachers
Many Americans agree that financial literacy is a critical education topic in middle schools, high schools, and even at home. In fact, two-thirds of Americans believe that financial education should be a high school graduation requirement. Additionally, a 2020 survey by The Charles Schwab Corporation shows that Americans want to prioritize financial education for future generations. Despite the global health crisis, “Americans would still prioritize financial education over health and wellness education as a supplementary graduation requirement to math, English, and science,” says Schwab. While experts have reiterated the importance of classroom learning to a child’s education, there are also plenty of learning opportunities beyond a traditional classroom setting, according to LearnFast. If you’re looking to give your students the long-term benefit of financial education, here are several resources to help you get started:
Financial Literacy Resources for Children (ages 6 –12)
- Consumer Finance Searchable includes 250 free activities to teach the building blocks of financial capability across the curriculum, designed to be used within a typical class period. Teachers can search by grade level, activity duration, and other key filters.
- Consumer Finances Assessment Tools can help teachers gauge their students’ mastery of financial building blocks and help students assess their knowledge, skills, and habits related to financial capability.
- Oppu has created a guide for teaching personal finance without a budget. You can use it to learn how to bring no-cost financial literacy initiatives to your classroom to help students.
- The National Financial Educators Council has over 400 hours of financial literacy curriculum available to use. The curriculum is broken down into groups ranging from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.
- The Actuarial Foundation provides a series of four classroom-ready books, along with a companion teaching guide. The curriculum is designed for students in 4th –12th grade.
- Money Smart for Young People is an FDIC resource that offers a free curriculum for four grade bands (preK – 2, 3 – 5, 6 – 8, and 9 – 12). Each includes teacher and instructor resources, engaging videos, and activity books.
Financial Literacy for Teens (ages 12 –19)
- 3 Ways to Engage High Schoolers in Personal Finance by U.S. News and World Report shares technology-based ways to engage high schoolers in discussions about finances.
- George Lucas Educational Foundation has curated a list of 10 free financial literacy games for high school students that can help them learn money management and financial decision-making skills.
- Financial Literacy in High School: Necessary and Relevant can help you make financial literacy relevant to students’ lives, while sharing additional resources for teaching financial literacy skills to high school students.
- Junior Achievement’s JA Personal Finance® curriculum for high school students focuses on spending money wisely through budgeting, saving and investing, using credit cautiously, and protecting personal finances.
- The SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game is an online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students in grades 4 – 12 in the world of economics, investing, and personal finance.
- TeachFinLit offers high school educators access to the resources that they need to confidently and successfully teach financial literacy concepts in their classrooms.
- The High School Financial Planning Program from the National Endowment for Financial Education offers materials for teachers and students in grades 8 – 12 to start planning and budgeting for higher education.
How to Teach Financial Literacy to Youth With Autism
Developmental disabilities are quite common among youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that youth with autism, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and emotional disturbances account for between 5 and 11 percent of students identified under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that provides protections for students with learning and other disabilities.
Childhood education for youth with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically involves various forms of therapy and lessons, often focusing on verbal or reading literacy and behaviour management says Autism Awareness Centre. For youth with ASD, no time is spent at all learning about money, according to the organization. The good news is, parents and caregivers can apply many of the same standard teachings principles to children with ASD and other developmental or cognitive delays or disabilities, says Beth Kobliner, a personal finance commentator and journalist.
If you’re a parent or caregiver of a child with a disability, these tips may help you prepare them for a successful financial future:
1. Try Using Social Stories
Social stories can be a great strategy to help promote positive financial decisions in children with disabilities, says Beth. Try sharing social stories, for example, like the grocery shopping exercise above. If you have a child with disabilities, you may instead try to focus on how to constructively handle the feelings of frustration while shopping, says Kobliner. If you’re looking for additional examples of social stories, TouchAutism’s comprehensive list of apps for children with autism can aid in helping you create your own personalized examples.
2. Teach Them How to Manage a Checkbook
Managing a checkbook can be easy, interactive, and fun for your child. Consider helping them open a checking account and writing a check to pay for an existing bill such as a cell phone plan. Carbon checks can help ensure that transactions are recorded, and tend to be preferred among youths with ADHD or learning disorders, according to GreatSchools. After your child has learned how to write a check, try providing them with a completed check as a reminder of the process.
3. Practice Money Counting With Them
According to ThoughtCo, “teaching money counting to children with learning disabilities not only gives them access to things they want to purchase, but it also builds a foundation for understanding the base ten systems of numeration.” You can try physical coin counting with your child, or use various free money counting games such as those provided by the U.S. Mint for Kids.
Additional Resources for Children With Developmental Disabilities:
- Financial Resources for Students with Special Needs features financial lessons designed for students with developmental and learning disabilities. Educators can customize lesson plans to best fit their students’ needs and learning styles.
- How to Teach Money Management for Independent Living with Autism offers tips to help children begin to build the skills to manage finances and handle money responsibly.
- Personal Financial Literacy Guide by Oklahoma Department of Education was developed to assist educators in ensuring that students with disabilities are able to demonstrate mastery of the Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) standards.
- Teaching Money Counting Skills by AutismStep offers an easy to follow Hundred Chart that can help you teach coin counting to children with developmental disabilities and lower function.
- Dime Counting is a free printable money worksheet that can help neurodiverse children, students, or adults practice counting skills and visual memory.
- How to Make Your Money Instruction Engaging and Functional is a guide by Autism Classroom Resources that provides tips on teaching financial literacy in a fun and engaging way.
- Crypto for Kids with Special Needs is a resource by BitIRA that can help your child grasp the concept of cryptocurrency while providing a strong overview of the benefits of STEM exposure to children with disabilities.