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How to Teach Your Kids About Financial Security

Cara Macksoud


Children are often left in the dark about what goes on with the family’s finances. This can lead to a lack of confidence and knowledge later in life when it’s time for them to handle their own money. Parents can start teaching these lessons early to prepare their children for when they’re on their own and have to be responsible for their own money before they leave the house. While not everything may be in practice now, this can set them up for success, better understanding and a feeling of safety when it comes to their finances.

Make It Fun

When starting the conversation about money with your kids, remember to keep the energy positive. While we want to warn them of the dangers and misuse of money, we don’t want them to be afraid of spending money. Keep the content at their level of understanding and make sure not to overload them with too much all at once. This will be something they’ll be learning and practicing over time.

While keeping it at the kids learning level, include some tools that can make it easier for them. Using games they already know, such as M.A.S.H., can make it easier to visualize finances and their goals later in life. This can be a stepping stone to looking at a budget and starting to save for the financial situation they plan to be in. In addition, these games and what they learn from them can be an easy resource for them to go back to when they’re older and put these skills to use.

Set Them Up With a Bank Account

Getting your kids set up with a bank account early can ease them into managing finances and provide them a starting point for their own. While they’re young, you’ll be the custodian making sure the account is safe, but it’ll allow them to be somewhat independent with their money as they grow up. You can also use this moment to show them the difference between a checking account and a savings account, and how each one would be used.

To get them actively utilizing these accounts, you can start giving them an allowance. This gives them experience in a real life situation where they earn and have to handle their money. An allowance shows them what their spending looks like and how to save that money for any bigger purchases they may want. It also gives kids a safe place to experiment with money, since they won’t be responsible for any major bills or payments, and there won’t be major repercussions if they overspend. The experience they have with their childhood allowance and bank account gives them first-hand knowledge to use in the future. 

Help Them Create a Budget

Showing your children how to budget their money early on can help them practice good spending habits they can carry throughout life. Give them options on the type of budget they could use, so they’ll have the tools to customize it to their needs and situations. A yearly budget versus a monthly one can provide them with different perspectives on their finances and where they can go with their money. Show them the different factors that would need to be taken into consideration when budgeting. This includes how much they’re earning, what bills need to be paid, and how much they should be saving. Learning to budget early on can give your children a foundation on how to handle their money while also giving them a safety net to make mistakes now in a low-risk environment.

Show Them How To Set Goals

When kids are learning how to create a budget, they can start using it to reach their financial goals. They can set smaller goals, such as saving a certain amount per month, or they can set bigger goals, such as being able to purchase something they’ve wanted for a while. Showing them how to put money aside and not spend it all at once can teach them the satisfaction of being able to purchase something that may seem out of reach. This can help them later on when they might need to save for a big purchase, such as a car or a down payment on a home. 

Remind them to sit down from time to time and see what they have, what they need, and how much money is coming in, in order to truly know how much they need to save and how long it will take. They might also have to consider outside factors as well and you can remind them of online tools they can use to help reach their goals or get back on track. When they’re younger, it may just be a gaming system or a phone that they want to save for and it might be easier to make your own budget and chart for that. As they get older and their goals get bigger, they may need the help of online calculators and templates. When it comes time for them to save for a car, find a resource that can help you shop around to find a vehicle that meets your needs. Later in life, for a home, they might need help discovering how much house they can afford. Learning these lessons and how to save now can help them see all the different factors they’d need to take into consideration for a purchase of this size and what they need to prepare for. 

Showing your children that there’s resources out there to provide them with guidance can give kids confidence in making bigger purchases and knowing that there is help out there if they need it.


Money Habitudes: How To Be Rich in Life & Love Wins Excellence in Financial Literacy Education Award

Engaging and innovative financial education curriculum with a focus on the psychology of money and behavioral economics helps teens with personal finances and relationships.

April 19, 2012 (Press Release) – The Dibble Institute and LifeWise Strategies announce that their collaboration, Money Habitudes: How To Be Rich in Life & Love, has won this year’s Excellence in Financial Literacy Education (EIFLE) Award for Children’s Education Program of the Year in the Financial Responsibility and Decision Making category. Awards were presented at this week’s Annual Conference on Financial Education, held in Orlando.

The EIFLE financial education award is bestowed by the Institute for Financial Literacy. It acknowledges innovation, dedication, and the commitment of those that support financial literacy education. Money Habitudes: How To Be Rich in Life & Love: A curriculum about money and relationships, introduces teens to the human, emotional side of money. With a behavioral economics approach, the teen financial literacy curriculum is an important precursor to financial literacy courses. The engaging personal finance curriculum helps teens identify their personal finance patterns, how these affect their goals and relationships, and ways to use this financial self-assessment to be more successful.

“Money is such an important issue for teens – both in terms of how they relate to others and how they establish their lifelong saving and spending habits. It’s a great honor for our financial education curriculum to be recognized by the Institute for Financial Literacy,” noted, Kay Reed, Executive Director of The Dibble Institute.

How To Be Rich in Life & Love includes a teacher guide, student workbook journal, CD, posters, and Money Habitudes cards, the foundation of the program. A hands-on teaching tool, Money Habitudes cards are a fun, instructional game that functions as both a financial ice breaker and a money conversation starter. First released in 2003, separate versions of the durable Money Habitudes cards are designed for adults, young adults and teens (high school); an adult version is also available in Spanish. The cards are widely used in programs focused on financial education, asset building, life skills, marriage and relationship education, financial planning, and career counseling.

“It is often very difficult for people to talk about money. The idea behind Money Habitudes was to make talking about money fun and to help people understand their money type in an engaging, nonjudgmental, non-threatening way – whether they are adults or high school students,” said Syble Solomon, the creator of Money Habitudes. “It’s been very rewarding to partner with The Dibble Institute to help teens learn about money and especially how money messages can affect relationships.”

5 Tips for More Fun and Effective Financial Classes

5 tips for financial classesDo you feel like you have so much information to share that you need to make the most of every moment when you teach financial education classes? Research has shown us that how we teach may be more important than how much we teach. Here are five tips to get the most bang-for-your buck when you only have an hour or two to make your points.

  1. More fun, more learning.
    When adults and teens are actively engaged and enjoying themselves, they literally take in more information and retain it better. It doesn’t have to always be laugh-out-loud fun, but it can’t be boring, negative or judgmental. For a start, minimize lectures, PowerPoint and worksheets. Maximize humor, conversation and engaging activities.
  2. “Just-in-time-learning”
    At the Florida Prosperity Partnership Conference, president/CEO Kaye Schmidt suggested only offering what is immediately relevant to the participants. What can they do today and tomorrow? They’ll be more likely to come back when they are ready to focus on next week and next month.
  3. Sacrifice content
    It’s only natural to want to cram in as much as possible when you get people into the room, but it’s the law of diminishing returns. If it’s too much and they are not enjoying themselves, they won’t take in as much, retain what they heard, and they won’t come back.
  4. The environment makes a difference
    A dark windowless, bare room with uncomfortable chairs and dreary surroundings sets a very different tone than a well lit, attractive room with comfortable seats. Being uncomfortable and in a depressing environment is actually distracting and leads to less learning.
  5. Set a positive tone
    Avoid starting off the class with a pre-test, assessment or a worksheet. Likewise, don’t ask people to write down their money mistakes or fill out a budget worksheet with their income and expenses. If they’re already feeling down about money, it just takes them to bad place. Instead, use humor and start with an ice-breaker that focuses on a positive experience when people made good choices and experienced a success. Think about what would make it easier for students to learn rather than on what you want to teach.

A credit board game to teach credit classes

A credit board game is included in The Good Credit Game, a credit curriculum kit. The Road to Good Credit is a credit board game that helps make credit classes fun and hands-on.

Teach a credit class with a credit board game

The credit curriculum is divided into two major sections. The first section helps people learn about credit reports and credit scores. The credit board game can build on the first lessons. It is typically done as the second half of a credit class. It may also be used as a standalone class or activity. (You could also use the credit board game as a first and last activity in a sort of pre- and post-test manner. This helps people understand what they don’t know and then shows them what they’ve learned after the class.) The credit board game and the other credit games and activities teach students about credit scores, credit reports and credit cards.

The Good Credit Game includes a credit board game.
The credit board game helps teach credit classes.

An educational credit board game

The credit board game is a mix of Trivial Pursuit and Chutes & Ladders. As the teacher, you can choose which question cards to use. You can also emphasize harder or easier questions. And you can choose from the 39 different credit topics. (These topics include bankruptcy, payday lending, credit history, etc.) So it’s accessible to all audiences, the credit board game is written at a fifth-grade reading level or below.

The credit board game in practice

The Good Credit Game’s activities are all designed to be done in small groups of 3-5 people. Credit classes are more fun, collaborative and engaging with this small-group format. As with Money Habitudes, we’ve seen how important it is for students to be able to laugh, talk and be active in financial education classes.
We advise allowing an hour to play the credit board game. It’s appropriate for credit classes for adults and young adults (including college and military classes).

A new credit curriculum to teach a credit class

Building on the popularity of Money Habitudes, we’ve just released The Good Credit Game. It’s a credit curriculum kit that makes it fun and easy to teach credit classes. The Good Credit Game covers credit reports, credit scores and credit cards.

A credit curriculum that’s fun to teach

One of the things that financial educators like about Money Habitudes is that it’s fun and hands-on – so we built those important parts into this new credit curriculum. We wanted it to be a credit curriculum that financial educators would want to teach. But we also wanted students in financial education classes to find it fun to learn about credit reports, credit scores and credit cards.
The Good Credit Game uses a variety of hands-on credit games and activities. That way, you don’t have to rely on lectures, PowerPoint and worksheets. And because the credit curriculum was designed to be collaborative and use group activities, students find it engaging.

good credit game - credit curriculum - credit board game
The Godo Credit Game has a credit board game, but it’s a complete credit curriculum with lots of other activities.

A credit curriculum that’s flexible and adaptable

The Good Credit Game was designed to be a flexible credit curriculum. There are six main modules. Each of these units can be used on its own or combined with other units. Doing the entire credit curriculum and all of the credit games takes about 2 hours, but a financial educator may choose to omit some or shorten others. For example, you can choose to just use the credit board game for an hour. Or choose to just use the Cost of Credit Calculators for 10 minutes.
The credit curriculum is designed so that you can teach credit classes that are more basic. Or you can choose to teach a credit class using more advanced questions and topics. Choose from 39 different credit topics.

Teach credit classes with an easy credit curriculum

A big challenge to teaching credit classes is that credit is a complicated topic. Therefore, The Good Credit Game takes a “teach-out-of-the-box” approach. This means you don’t have to be a credit expert to teach credit classes that are fun and effective. The teacher’s guide has complete financial lesson plans that are easy to read, set up and understand. Within the credit curriculum you’ll find pre-written explanations about credit reports, credit scores and credit cards that are easy to use. You can teach yourself or read the explanations to the credit class when necessary. Also, the activities largely run themselves.

An accessible credit curriculum

Participants in a credit class can be very diverse. The Good Credit Game’s student materials are all written at 5th-grade reading level or below. We’ve also included a glossary of the bigger, more complicated financial terms that you may run across in a credit class. It’s also applicable to people with a range of experience using credit – it can even be used as a training tool for credit educators.

Financial literacy for college student financial aid

Money Habitudes is used by colleges and universities in to promote financial literacy for college students. It may be a student financial aid office running a financial aid workshop or using the tool in financial counseling sessions. It’s also used in a number of colleges’ peer financial counseling programs. And it’s used in residence life programs on financial literacy. This is, of course, in addition to financial planning and family & consumer science classes that use the materials in financial classes.

Typical ways the cards are used on campuses for student financial aid:

  1. college student financial aidTo hook people and get them into financial education classes. Using the Money Habitudes cards for a standalone class is an easy, fun, low-stress way to engage with college students for the first time. It may be something you can do at another event, as part of a student financial aid program, or in residence halls. Although this is an example from military dorms, it’s a similar idea.
  2. As the first class in a series. Often student financial aid offices teach a series like: Budgeting, Getting Banked, Credit Reports and Scores. Now, many organizations just bolt on Money Habitudes as the first class (so the budget class becomes Class #2). Using the money games, they focus on habits, attitudes, values and behaviors in Class #1. It also builds camaraderie in financial aid classes and sets a tone of fun and open sharing. And it helps people understand why they do what they do with money and allows people to set better goals.
  3. As an icebreaker and get-to-know-you tool to be used by financial peer counselors. In short, Money Habitudes helps people talk about money. There are a number of colleges that have financial peer counseling programs like this; a great example is work being done by Red to Black at Texas Tech. This is a similar financial peer coaching case study.
  4. Finally, Money Habitudes cards are used a lot in financial aid training and financial literacy training sessions. This may be either for financial coaches, financial counselors, volunteers and peer coaches. It’s partly as a training to help people talk about money — always a difficult topic — relate better to clients and be more sensitive to different people who see/use money differently than they do. This relies on the money personality aspect of the cards which helps people better understand themselves and others when it comes to money.

Teaching financial management to young kids

Our Money Habitudes materials help people teach financial management to adults and teens. Because the hands-on activity is used like money management games, we’re often asked if there is a version for young kids.
The Money Habitudes for Teens version is designed for high school students, typically ages 15-18. Using the cards requires that one is making financial decisions and that’s not always true with populations younger than high school. Although we’ve heard stories of people successfully using the cards with junior high students and very young kids — as young as eight and nine years old — we don’t recommend the materials for these younger age groups. And at this point, we don’t have plans to develop a version of the teaching tool for very young kids. Still, many of the the individual statement cards can be used as conversation starters across most ages.
captain cash financial education for young kidsSo while we do not have a version to help teach financial management to elementary school and junior high kids, we’re certainly interested in programs that do reach this audience. After all, Money Habitudes is unique in helping teens and adults understand their habits, attitudes, values and behaviors when it comes to money — and a big part of what influences our financial habits and attitudes is what happens in childhood.
There are obviously more financial education curricula for teens and adults, but there are some that are used with much younger kids. One of those is Captain Cash from Purdue Extension. It’s recommended for third and fourth grade. It’s described as “an interactive educational program designed to teach basic financial management skills to your students.” It covers the following:

  • Money behaviors observed and learned in childhood impact adult behaviors.
  • Money management messages that children process in the home, the community, on television, and via other media shape their values, attitudes and future money habits.
  • Individuals and families are not able to respond to economic disruptions because they have not learned critical money management concepts and skills.

Finance in the Classroom

Money Habitudes is now recommended as a resource in Finance in the Classroom. Finance in the Classroom is a service of the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah Education Network.
finance in the classroomFinance in the Classroom supports Utah’s initiative to include a financial literacy course as a high school graduation requirement. The state is also pushing to further empower youth in making financial decisions. A number of other states have undertaken similar initiatives with many including financial literacy as a graduation requirement.
Money Habitudes is used in both adult and teen financial education classes. The Money Habitudes teen financial education curriculum won an Excellence in Financial Literacy Education Award.
Money Habitudes is often used as an fun, hands-on ice breaker or introductory activity that helps people talk about money, understand their money personality and their spending habits.
States like Utah often have their own state financial education requirements. We maintain a list of how Money Habitudes fits within a variety of national financial education standards including Jump$tart, FINRA and the National Financial Educators Council’s Financial Literacy Standards.

Financial habits, attitudes, behaviors in money classes

The Issue: How to start a series of money classes with an engaging session that covers financial habits, attitudes and behaviors.
women work and community money classesWho: Jean Dempster and Janet Smith are Asset Development Trainers at Women, Work, and Community in Maine. Both have been teaching money management classes for more than 10 years.
What: Women, Work, and Community (WWC) is the only statewide women’s economic development organization in Maine. It has 10 centers and 8 outreach sites. It operates under the University of Maine at Augusta. WWC offers classes and workshops to individuals in four areas: Career, Starting a Business, Money Management, and Leadership.

  • WWC offers a series of financial education classes. My Money Works: Tools for Smart Money Choices, a 5-class financial education series, is 15 hours.
  • These money classes progress as follows:
    • financial habits and attitudes
    • income and expenses; budgeting
    • credit reports and credit scores
    • protecting assets and retirement
    • basics of investing
  • The money classes have previously been supported by a FINRA Investor Education Foundation Financial Education in Your Community grant. Most of the financial curriculum was created in-house, but also draws on FDIC’s Money Smart financial curriculum and FINRA Investor Education Foundation materials.
  • Although there is a focus on women, classes are about 20% men. Often, people sign up for the money classes as a result of some financial crisis like unemployment or divorce.
  • The money classes usually have 8-12 students. Because the classes are voluntary, they must feel fun, helpful and welcoming.
  • For years, WWC has started its financial education series with a class on financial habits and attitudes. “We’ve always really felt that if you don’t look at your attitudes and beliefs about money, then it’s hard to change your behavior,” says Dempster.
  • “What we’ve always done that’s different is start off with a whole first session that talks about attitudes and early childhood memories about money and other things that lead to where we are today instead of just the cold, hard facts of how to do a budget. Many people are not comfortable talking about budgets and numbers so we want to build up group rapport before we tackle the numbers and skills,” says Dempster.
  • The financial habits and attitudes class originally used material from the book, Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
  • WWC now uses Money Habitudes cards as the foundation of its first class, called Getting Comfortable With Money. “Several years ago one of our staff members got a set of the cards and loved them and said they’d be a good fit for our programs. So we all tried the cards and thought the same thing and decided to integrate them into our existing classes,” says Smith.
  • Used like money management games, the class gets 15-20 minutes to sort their own deck of Money Habitudes cards. This is followed by interpreting their money personality. The Money Habitudes module lasts for about an hour during the 3-hour first class.
  • The activity helps people talk about money. It is followed by a discussion about the money messages that people receive in life. Smith asks people, “What are some of the phrases you remember about money when you were growing up?” She also asks what financial habits and behaviors they observed.
  • Later, participants set up a money journal to track spending over the next few weeks. Finally, they write out positive affirmations about money management.
  • In addition, WWC offers the Money Habitudes activity as a stand-alone class. These money classes last about an hour and are offered at their own facilities and at off-site events like free tax prep workshops. “We use Money Habitudes to recruit for our longer financial education classes. Someone will come in to a one-time class on Money Habitudes then think, ‘This was really good and fun and I want to learn more about managing my money,’ so then they may sign up for our longer classes,” says Smith.


  • “What makes our classes different is our focus on behavior, so the Money Habitudes cards have been a great addition for us,” says Dempster.
  • “We’ve known for years that people can learn the skills, but then they need to apply them. And people don’t apply what they know, not because they don’t know about it, but because there are other things going on. We want to help people understand what else is going on,” says Smith
  • “If it were just about the tools, people would all already be doing budgets! There are many budget books and budget websites. There’s more to it than that. It’s that change in attitude – that I can do this, that there are changes I can make – that is so important,” says Dempster.
  • “I’d been working with a woman, one-on-one, to get her finances in order. And she’d worked really hard over several months to get her budget together. Maybe a year later, I got a call from her because she said she’d seen that we were doing the Money Habitudes class and she wanted to attend. So she came to the class and at the end said, ‘Oh, now I understand! I’ve got this budget and I was keeping track of my expenses – in fact, I’m still keeping track – but I’m not following it! I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t sticking to it!’ She had never given me that feedback over the previous year. It was just such an a-ha moment for her! She finally told me that her problem was spending online – but she’d never told me about that when we met until we did the Money Habitudes activity. After that, we could finally work on strategies for that and really help her,” says Smith.