1. Remember That Kids Are Smart
Children learn to talk, read and write by the age of five. “They’re sponges!” says Mackey. “When they’re young, if they see you doing something with your money, they’ll be apt to do it, too, so use this to your advantage.”
Don’t assume that what you’re saying is above their heads—as long as you keep the conversation going as they get older, there’s no such thing as starting too young.
(You can use our money milestones for kids timeline for suggestions on different topics to cover at different ages, as well as activities to further explain those topics.)
2. Refrain From Lecturing
If you find that your kids’ eyes are glazing over while you’re talking about saving and spending, try a different approach. (Here’s a list of our favorite tools to help teach kids about money.)
“Grab a money game, book or play games online,” says Mackey. “Create an experience instead, and they’ll be just as likely to learn from it.”
3. Make It a Two-Way Street
Inspire your kids to want to learn about money by asking questions that apply to them. Ask about jobs and careers that interest them, as well as subjects that they’re interested in learning about when it comes to money. And before ending any financial conversation, always ask if your child has any additional questions.
4. Don’t Ignore Your Mistakes
Everyone makes financial errors from time to time—we’ve certainly learned some of our greatest money lessons from ours. So don’t shy away from using financial mistakes (yours and your child’s) as an opportunity to teach a lesson.
“Kids have to learn that it’s not the end of the world when we make financial mistakes,” explains Mackey, adding that the more mistakes you can teach kids before they leave home, the less likely they are to make the same ones once out on their own.
Tell us: How did your parents talk to you about money? Do you talk to your own kids in the same way?