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Teach kids the value of a dollar early

Children need to be taught how to make decisions based on what they value

Columnist Susan Reimer recently wrote about parents and their sharing financial information with children ("Family checkbook secrets," Feb. 6).

We believe the discussion should be less about sharing how much money one makes than on understanding the economic decision-making process. The dollar amounts in someone's paycheck aren't as important as the concepts of economic decision-making, opportunity cost and compounding interest.

Children need to be taught how to make decisions based on what they value. Every family has its own values, and children become aware of them just by being a family member.

For some families the value lies in yearly vacations, saving for retirement, private education, tickets to sporting events or saving for college. These are the conversations parents should be having with their children.

If a family places the most value on annual vacations then they will not buy a larger home. In order to afford what they value the most, they give up something else or they budget and save for it.

Talk through this process with your children. The question is, if you're going to spend this dollar on something what are you going to give up in order to make up for the expense? If a child wants to buy a bike then ask them what are they willing to give up to get the bike (the thing on which they place the most value)?

It's not as important to say, "we have this in the bank" or "we make this amount." What is important to understand is how and why we make the financial decisions we make and the impact it has on our spending and, therefore, our lives.

You can never teach your kids too early to live below your means and pay yourself first. It will prepare them to become financially and economically independent when they grow up.

Mary Ann Hewitt

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Council on Economic Education.

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