Getting those savings going

It's important to teach children the value of money and saving, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

Our 5-year-old has at last grasped the concept that, while money pops out into your hands from ATMs, you actually have to do something in the first place to ensure that it's in there for you.

I'm sure many youngsters also take quite some time to understand that waving a small bit of plastic at a gadget on the shop counter is not all you need to do to walk out with whatever you want.

And, perhaps, many adults think the same, too, or at least fail to recognise that credit cards are just very expensive loans.

Most banks these days probably aren't greatly interested in the "rats-and-mice-type'' savings of youngsters, although in recent years some have taken the longer view of getting in early hoping to secure a customer for life.

But it really is over to parents to get that savings habit going. Maybe by the time they're 40 they'll be able to afford to buy a house.

There's nothing like an old-fashioned piggy bank for starters. Only open a bank account once they're old enough to understand how a bank works, that their money isn't being taken from them and enough is being saved to warrant it.

To encourage savings, you might agree at the end of each month to match dollar for dollar the amount saved or add your own 5% or 10% interest to whatever is in the piggy bank.

If they get an allowance, you'll need to decide together how it might be split. For example, what percentages for savings, for donations and available for immediate spending.

You will also need to work out how money given for birthdays, for example, will be dealt with: all for savings, some form of split, or as the child decides? When they do have a bank account, they should always take part in the banking process and have access to a printout of their statements.

They need to feel in control of their savings. You may have to explain the statements to them several times before they fully understand that, although there are no notes or coins, they still have the money.

As they get older, the savings component will need further consideration. What is it for? Do you want to put restrictions on this money and until what age? This is where learning about budgeting and planning fits in.

Once things are in place, they should be free to use their spending money wisely or unwisely.

Trial and error, disappointment and your sympathetic ear will teach them a lot, so long as there are no bailouts. When their money's gone, it's gone.

A lesson, it seems, many adult Kiwis have still to learn.


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