AINESVILLE, Ga. – My wife, Ann, and I have been blessed with four boys, and we wanted to be sure to teach them important financial lessons that would serve them well throughout their lives. Our goal was to have each of them become financially independent adults – able to stand on their own. In short, we wanted to raise the boys to be generous givers, prudent savers and wise managers of God’s money. Here are some key tips and principles we implemented at various stages in the boys’ lives.
Birth to three years are really the years where Mommy and Daddy have to be trained, as well as the child, because during that time we have to learn to say “no.” Teaching them delayed gratification is crucial, since these are the years when the child is in the “me, my, gimme” stage. Setting parameters early is very important.
To practice this idea of delayed gratification, we implemented a simple rule: We asked the boys not to eat while the host was still preparing the food but to wait until everyone had been seated at the table and the prayer of thanks was offered. That sounds like a small thing, but it taught them patience.
After the age of three, the lessons started to change.
Three to five are the years when we really started emphasizing responsibility. We taught them how to make their bed, how to fold dish towels, washcloths – simple things that they could feel confident in accomplishing. These are the years when children love to copy mom and dad; they want to be just like us.
This is also the time we began helping them establish a routine with money. Crown produces wonderful money tins with bedtime stories so that children can begin to practice allocating resources. We started off with 10 percent giving, 50 percent saving and the rest for spending.
Five to eight are prime ages to really train the children. Ours were right beside us learning how to empty the dishwasher, how to work in the garden or in the yard. It’s very time intensive for mom and dad, but this is where we really want to train them for the future years.
No matter where you are in life, there will always be certain things you have to do without getting paid. Like making your bed. That’s not something we’re going to reward a child for, because everybody needs to be able to get out of bed and make it. So, those are the kinds of responsibilities they needed to do.
Once the boys started to take on other things outside their personal responsibility, things that benefitted the whole family, we started to pay an allowance. They were actually becoming workers; besides just fulfilling their personal responsibilities with chores, the allowance was for our work that we needed them to do around the house. Ann devised a simple chore-tracking tool that we kept posted on our refrigerator to record when a job was completed.
Now, as the boys grew, we introduced them to a new method of money management. We bought a one-inch binder for each of the boys containing three clear pencil holders – the kind with zippers. One holder was labeled “Save,” the next was “Spend” and the third was “Give.”
When a holder reached a set level, we transferred it into a bank account. As an extra incentive, we offered to match the amount a child put into “Save.”
Also, we wanted to be sure our boys took giving seriously and developed that habit very early. We encouraged them to pray and seek opportunities where they could give.
On the spending side, we wanted to teach them how to be good consumers. We began assigning them items they were responsible to purchase. We tried never to pay full price for anything. That meant we would shop sales and take them to thrift shops. They discovered the joy of a treasure hunt, finding a great item for a really good price.
When the boys got older, we moved out of the allowance stage and started to prepare them to become employed one day. We posted on the refrigerator help-wanted ads for work projects around the house. We would ask, “Would anybody in our home like to apply for the job?” Usually we’d get a taker.
We also scouted around for apprenticeships, places where people would share their skills with the boys – perhaps in exchange for some type of labor, like yard work.
Finally, we prepared our sons to apply and interview for a job. So far, we’ve seen our two oldest boys grow up to be financially self-sufficient. (Our two youngest are still in school at home.) We had no idea that our eldest would choose to be married at age 19, but when he did make that choice, he was ready.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. His latest book, “The S.A.L.T. Plan, How to Prepare for an Economic Crisis of Biblical Proportions,” is available now. To sign up for Chuck’s free weekly e-newsletter, “Handwriting on the Wall,” visit Crown.org/handwriting or call 1-800-722-1976.)