On Monday 18 October 2010, 22:03 SGTIt has been said that tradition means handing all that is of value to the next generation. For a financial advisor who frequently executes financial planning on an intergenerational basis, this means more than just passing on money. It means bequeathing a sense of financial responsibility and accountability to the next generation. ,
While the causes of the financial crisis our nation has suffered will continue to be debated for decades to come, one thing is clear: A major contributing factor to the crisis came about from a breakdown in individuals' debt and spending habits.
The key takeaway for people who would like to create long-term financial health for their families: It is incumbent on each of us to impart the very basics of disciplined personal finance to each member of the next generation.
Teaching kids how to manage money is one of the biggest challenges facing parents today. If you can teach your child the difference between wants and needs, how to save, how to create and adhere to a budget, and how one's personal financial discretion can have a positive impact on the broader community, chances are that your child will know more than most adults.
[See Teach Your Child Money Habits for Life.]
But if you fail to address this critical education, your child is likely to join the millions of Americans who have piled up enormous amounts of debt and have no financial game plan for how to support their lives on a sustainable basis. Unfortunately, we all know how that story ends, based on our collective experiences over the past few years.
Here are the top four most impactful ways to impart lessons on personal finance and financial responsibility to your kids:
Educational board games. It's been proven time and time again that the more fun we make learning for kids--while involving ourselves deeply in the process--the better they retain the lesson. To this end, there are a number of board games on the market today that teach children how to invest prudently in order to get a health return later. My all-time favorite is Monopoly. Set up a once-a-week "family game night" when everybody shuts off their cell phones and spends some quality time together. You might even find that your kids or grandkids can teach you a thing or two.
[See 5 Things You Don't Know About 529 Plans.]
Creative solutions for kids' "wants." This past summer, my son began taking surfing lessons and was hooked from the start. I knew what was coming next: "Dad, can you buy me a hundred-dollar surfboard?" My response: "Son, if the surfboard is going to cost a hundred bucks, what creative ways can you come up with to earn the $50, so that your mother and I will be able to match the remaining $50 you'll need to make this happen?" We had a family meeting that night while all three of our children came up with their own ideas to making the money for the surfboard: Setting up a lemonade stand, raking leaves in the neighborhood, offering to wash cars, etc. After two months of doing odd jobs and scrimping, our son saved the $50 he needed for his surfboard. We gladly contributed the matching amount necessary, and we feel that we arrived at a much better solution and life lesson than if I had simply gone out and bought it for him. Let's teach our children to work for at least part of what they want, even if we can afford to buy the whole thing for them.
Watch the news with your kids. Ask a child where money comes from and too often they will respond, "From Daddy and Mommy." Watching the nightly financial and economic news with your children at least once a week is a great way to educate them about personal finance and where money comes from. During the show, it is useful to have open discussions to toss around opinions on how they perceive what they are learning. This helps them understand how they and their families fit into the broader scheme of things, while making them feel more comfortable about coming to you as parents with some of their own concerns. You can then take what they have watched and relate it back to your family finances and how some of these events have positively or negatively impacted the family.
[See 3 Reasons You Should Not Manage Your Own Money.]
Giving to charity. While teaching personal financial responsibility and the basics of where money comes from is key, it is equally important to teach the next generation about the obligations we each have to give back to society and the communities in which we live. Keep it simple and let them choose their own charities to either get involved in or just to make donations. If the child has a passion connected to a particular cause, they will be more apt to stick with it and have some fun along way. With the holidays approaching, one great way is to help out as a family at a local soup kitchen, which will allow your kids to see the faces of those that are directly impacted by their efforts.
At the end of the day, I promise you this: The road to financial recovery for families across America will be a long and challenging one. And there is no doubt that we will depend on the next generation and how they live to help make our nation fiscally responsible once more. Let's all do our part to give the next generation the education and tools they need in this endeavor.
Doug Lockwood, CFP is a Partner at Harbor Lights Financial Group, a full service wealth-management team that has been dedicated to assisting clients in the accumulation and preservation of their wealth for over eighteen years. He was recently named one of America's Top 100 Financial Advisors by Registered Rep Magazine (August 2010). Lockwood is a registered representative with and securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC