HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

Raising a financially savvy child

Our readers offer their advice about how to teach money management to children.

By GreatSchools Staff

Some of our readers cited the late John D. Rockefeller. Others quoted radio host/author Dave Ramsey. But the message was the same: many of you believe that kids should learn to give, spend and save. Here are the ways you're putting that formula to work in your families:

Give, save, spend

How Rockefeller got rich:

"I have a 1-year-old son," a California dad writes. "I learned this lesson from the life of John D. Rockefeller. They say his mom was a devout Christian. At the age of 8, little Johnny's mom told him to make three bags. This was his budget:

Bag 1 was for GIVING to GOD.

Bag 2 was for SPENDING on himself.

Bag 3 was for SAVING for something big.

Every week, his parents gave him $3. And every week, John D. Rockefeller put $1 in BAG 1, $1 in BAG 2, and $1 in BAG 3.

I am definitely going to implement this with my children."

What Dave Ramsey says:

"We use Financial Peace Jr. by Dave Ramsey (best selling author of Total Money Makeover) for our two boys ages 9 and 10," writes Tonya Gebhart of Alabama. "Dave uses the principles of GIVE, SAVE, and SPEND to succeed as children and as adults. In the kit, there is a chore chart, envelopes, directions and more.

"Our boys do some jobs for money and some jobs just because they are part of the family. At the end of each week, we give them what they have earned. They divide up their money into the appropriate envelopes. Now if they want to go to the movies or such, all we have to ask is, 'Do you have any money in your SPEND envelope?'

"We've been using this program for almost two years, and it works beautifully. These kits are available at"

Household banking system:

Gina Barnett of Kansas has a detailed version of this plan for her daughter: "My 11-year-old gets a weekly allowance. This allowance is not tied to chores, although she can earn extra money if she does special chores not assigned to another family member. She pays the family for her keep by doing her chores each day like keeping up with the family laundry, room cleaning, bed made, feeding her cat, etc.

"She divides her allowance into 3 envelopes. Her $5.00 is sorted to tzedakah (the Jewish obligation to give to charity) $1.00, savings $2.00 and spending $2.00. She gives the tzedakah at Sunday school each week (or saves it until the following class session). She is allowed to spend or save her spending money. If she saves her spending money it cannot be re-diverted into spending. So if she chooses to save then it stays in savings. Her savings is then the major learning experience for her.

"At the start of each savings cycle, she discusses with her parents the item of purchase and a goal is set. She might want to buy something that costs more than she would normally get for a birthday or holiday. She is to stay on track without exception.

"Our family has a household banking system run by the adults. When she makes a deposit each week we will accept a deposit slip. When she has reached her goal, she must present us with a check for the amount to be tendered. Her check register must track all transactions. No overdrafts or loans are allowed. All deposit slips and checks must be completed fully and accurately in order to be valid.

"This allows her to set a goal and delay gratification. Impulse buying is eliminated. Planning for trips and leisure activity is clearly examined. Value of money is quickly learned and remains on her radar. She does not get to change her Savings goal unless a family meeting takes place and she presents her case for review. Goals are rarely changed.

"A second money-management task is a pretend check register that tracks money that is spent each day when she is with a parent. For example she writes the amount spent at the grocery store, gas station, post office, bagel shop and order-out pizza delivery, including tip. She might start with a pretend amount of $1,700.00 for the month. She must account for anything that comes out of our pocket, such as a quarter for a grocery store pony ride for little brother, soda pop, mortgage payment, utilities bills, insurance co-pays at doctor or dentist offices, music lessons, sporting fees, school lunch fees and so on.

"When the money runs out we have a discussion about how her checkbook is shut down for the month until the next deposit is made at the beginning of the next month. She is beginning to see the need to start to budget her money so that it lasts to the end of the month. She actively looks for ways to cut back or pay reduced prices so that the money last longer each month. She has discovered coupons, stores that offer double coupon days, used products and pawn shops.

"We are just now looking into teaching her about the stock market and compounding interest. We plan to buy a minimum amount of stock in a company she researches. She gets to pick the one to purchase with some influence from the parents. She will then track it each week over several years sending her grandmother a monthly report on how it is performing. She will hopefully understand the ups and downs of the market and the need to stay in it for the longer term."

Comments from readers

"Teaching money management is so important I learnt through this artical.thanks a lot . "
" My problem with my kids was there money management. Every time the date for allowance come, i have to get to the same conversation about money management. I did a research and i found great tool, prepaid Visa card by It gives me and kids what we all need. Teach your child how to pay with plastic,your teen learns how to track spending and budget funds available on the card. You can set alerts, every time your child spend money, you get text massage on your phone, so you know how much they spend, where they spend and when. In case of emergency you can fund the card right away by using your phone and you can turn card On or Of anytime. I think it's a great tool and i am happy to share this with other parents."
"It is a tragedy that our schools do not require a course in finance, yet it is the one topic that each and every human must deal with in life. How can any school claim to be concerned about developing well-rounded citizens and ignore this topic. Shame on each school, and worse yet, shame on our country."
"This is really key in the lives of young people now a days. We are talking about the same thing at my church. Thank you for this. "