Teach your children the meaning of money

Start at an early age if you want to teach children economic sense and sensibility.

Even children of four are aware of the power of money. If they ask for an ice cream and you reply that you don't have money on you, they will learn that they can't have what they want at that time.

Next time they'll first ask if you have money and only then ask for the ice cream.

A fiscally responsible parent should use this awareness to begin educating children about sound money management.

Children need to learn that money has to be earned by hard work and that it doesn't grow on trees. This shows them they need to make choices about how they spend it.

If children ask for chocolate and ice cream, tell them you have money for only one treat, and they should decide which they prefer.

As they get older and begin to get pocket money, they will soon learn they have to make spending choices.

Later you can introduce the concept of saving. Tell the children if they want an expensive toy they need to save their weekly pocket money until they have enough to buy it.

Managing money is all about making choices, and sometimes sacrifices. The sooner children learn this, the better.

Teenagers are notorious for their spending habits, but these years are critical. How teens channel their financial urges will usually determine how they manage their money as adults.

Children must respect the value of money, whether they earn it or it is given to them.

Even the most privileged children, who know they are destined to receive a large inheritance or are beneficiaries of a substantial trust fund - which means they will never need to work - need to know the power of money.

Part of the parents' role is to teach by example and make sure they are sending their children the right messages about money. Children need to see their parents paying bills, depositing money in savings accounts and giving to charity, if possible.

Give them practical examples so they learn to understand the concept of financial responsibilities. Make them pay their cellphone bill for a month or two and they will soon learn that instant gratification is costly and expenses need to be managed by a budget.

Financial responsibility is an important part of a child's education and is essential to their financial well-being as adults. But don't become so preoccupied with these responsibilities that they become a bone of contention.

If a child asks for an ice cream on a hot summer's day, give it gladly without preaching. After all, ice cream is one of the simple joys of childhood and money worries can wait awhile.

lBryan Hirsch is chief executive of Pioneer Financial Planning. Visit www.pioneer.co.za or e-mail help@pioneer.co.za for more information.