How we teach our kids about work and money

At what age are kids old enough to start learning about work and money?  Some say when they’re old enough to drive.  Other when they’re old enough to open a bank account.  For my wife and I, the criteria is much simpler.  When kids are old enough to do the work, then they’re old enough to learn about work and money.

My kids are 5 and 3, respectively, with birthdays right around the corner, and for the past year, they have been learning about the value of work and the basic skills about money, just as they have been learning about nutrition, exercise, honesty, friendship and other skills we believe are critical for their success in life.  Is it ever too early to start teaching these things to your kids?

Here is how we do it:

  • Unless we are not home, we make it a point every Saturday to spend the morning doing chores, breaking the jobs down by level of difficulty.  Our 5-year-old cleans the bathrooms (with joy), and our 3-year-old collects the trash cans and dusts (with pride).  We make it fun and, of course, we work right alongside to show them that leaders are never above getting their hands dirty.
  • Once each person’s work is complete, they pitch in to help the others complete their work until everything is done.
  • Finally, we sit them down at the kitchen table and we pay them, and they are on commission!  $1.00, paid in the form of 10 dimes, so we can teach them how to budget by putting their dimes (percentages) into ziplock bags labeled “Give”, “Save” & “Spend”.  Our hope is that they will learn and always remember the following lessons:

– 10% for TAXES: Paying your taxes says something about you, not about the government.  Jesus made it clear in Matthew 22:21 that we should “…give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s…”, indicating that it is right to pay your taxes.

– 10% into their GIVE bag: Any healthy financial plan includes giving, in this case in the form of tithing to our local church.  The second half of Matthew 22:21 continues by saying we should “…give to God what belongs to God.”  In the Old Testament, God sets up the tithe as a way for people to acknowledge that all they have comes from God and ultimately belongs to Him.  It is a recognition and thanksgiving for God’s provision in our life.  My wife and I have lived by this since before we married, and God has always provided us with what we need, whether in large or small quantities.

– 20% into their SAVE bag: Saving is simply paying for things in the future, and this is wise.  We know the furnace will break, braces will be needed, vacations will be had, Christmas comes every year, and college and weddings will be here before we know it.  Learning to save means turning a crisis into a momentary set back, and it teaches wisdom over instant gratification, which permeates our culture.  For those wise enough to save, life’s hard times are a lot easier.

– 60% into their SPEND bag: It’s important to learn how to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but it’s also just as important to learn how to live within your means; to spend less than you earn.  We want our girls to enjoy buying things they want or need, knowing they have already been responsible in the other areas of personal finance.

At this point, it’s not about the money, it’s about the lesson, and less than a year into our system, our daughters look forward to Saturday chores, getting paid for their work and placing the money in their ziplock bags.  It is our hope that these lessons run deep in their DNA, and that they will prosper in life as a result of our efforts right now.

And the only question any of us as parents need to ask is “When do we want our children to learn these lessons?”  For us, it’s when they are young enough to not know any different.

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