Family Money: Tips for Raising Saving-Savvy Kids
They've got their work cut out for them: Seven out of 10 Americans aren't saving enough, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. But it's not just today's workers who aren't socking away enough for retirement. New research from financial education site Doughmain.com shows that our kids aren't getting the message to save, either.
And here's the rub. It's not that we parents don't understand that it's our responsibility to teach our children to save -- 81% of Doughmain's survey respondents said as much. We're just not doing it.
"It's kind of like the plumber having the leaky pipe. Sometimes we don't do what we say we're going to do," says Doughmain founder Ken Damato.
Why? I have one hypothesis. I'm not one to be crabby about technology, but all this swiping, online banking, and mobile depositing is hiding some important nuts and bolts from our kids. How do you teach your kids the value of a dollar -- with compound interest -- in the new (and low-interest) world we're living in? I have a few tips:
• Set a good example. It's hard in this economy to save money. I know that. But even those few dollars you put away each month can serve as a lesson to your children. Talk to them about how you find money to save. Next time you pass up a splurge while you're with them -- whether it's a latte or a new throw pillow for the couch -- explain that you did it because you can't have everything you want and money in the bank too.
• Speak their language. This is the tablet and smartphone generation. They may never see a paper statement in their lifetime if they don't want to. So show them how you bank online, and how the little bits of money you've put away have added up. (My kids like to see how their 529 accounts, also trackable online, are growing.) Then set them up with a savings account that they can monitor on their own, and other online tools like Mint.com or Doughmain that can help them track their spending and learn about money in a tech-savvy way. Finally, make the lessons fun. One idea, from Damato: a contest to see who can guess closest to the cost of family activities. Include the whole shebang -- gas, tolls, lunch, entrance fees to the museum.
• Offer incentives. Only 38% of the Doughmain respondents are matching their children's savings efforts. But it's an easy way to give them a little push in the right direction, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. You don't even need to match dollar for dollar -- 50 or 25 percent is plenty.
With Arielle O'Shea