As parents, we have a great responsibility to teach our kids money lessons to influence how they will spend, save, and invest later in life. This means it is critical to talk to them early and often about how we want them to value money. It also means that we have a unique opportunity to model healthy behaviors for them at all stages of development. This requires a willingness to talk about money, as well as using our own actions to demonstrate how to manage it.
Fortunately, every day brings helpful learning opportunities for us to introduce and explain financial concepts to our kids. This means there are dozens of ways to start the conversation, including around pop culture. In fact, pop culture is a phenomenal resource for teaching our kids money lessons. Below I’ll relay three examples from my own family to help you begin thinking about opportunities for financial conversations in daily life with your kids, too.
A Homeless Cartoon Character
When my oldest daughter, Maddy, was four, she told me that we should help people who are homeless. She told me this while we were driving, and I remember thinking how great it was that Maddy was thinking about homeless people.
When we got home, I asked Maddy what got her thinking about the topic of homelessness and wanting to help people in need. She said, “Well I was watching SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward was homeless and had to live in a box. It’s not good to live in a box in the water, because it disintegrates.”
While I had thought (hoped?) that I had helped Maddy understand how to help others, SpongeBob and the disintegrating box had actually done the work. Since all kids end up exposed to pop culture in one way or another, there are always going to be opportunities to discuss money issues in a context your kids are familiar with.
SEE ALSO: How to Raise Non-Materialistic Children
A Kid-Friendly Investment
While pop culture got one of my children thinking about the concept of giving back, it got another thinking about investing. My son Fernando is, perhaps, my most financially carefree child. He approached me and asked if I would invest in a stock on his behalf. I was pleasantly surprised but knew I would have to find a relatable way to teach him about investing to keep him interested.
Now, I could have given Fernando all the information he needed about investing, and even guided him toward a prudent stock purchase. Instead, I visited a kid-friendly app called Stockpile which allows users to buy partial shares, and that gives interesting, easy to understand backgrounds about each company. Using Stockpile led to conversations about what kinds of products and companies my twelve-year-old son might relate to, which led to him investing in Apple. We ended up matching Fernando’s $60 investment, so he had $120 to invest in his chosen company. Almost immediately, Apple stock dropped, which was great because it taught Fernando what can happen in the market. Since then, he has learned that the market will always have ups and downs, and to ride the waves for long-term success.
A Popular Gaming Community
Fernando is also the subject of my third example, and this money conversation happened when he was nine years old. He is a spender, while my girls are savers, and we knew this when we got him the Clash of Clans video game, which featured an online community playing option that many of Fernando’s friends were involved in. We didn’t sign up for the community option because we knew we couldn’t police Fernando’s interactions.
Well, I had recently gotten a new credit card, and Fernando got hold of it. He entered the number and signed up for the community subscription with a fake email address. When we learned what he had done, Fernando and I had the necessary conversation about how he didn’t have permission to spend my money. His response, however, surprised me. He said, “Well, that’s not money. That’s just a credit card.”
Even though this is an example of a less than ideal situation, it opened the door for a lesson about credit cards and how they work. I think it was actually a much more effective conversation than it would have been without the Clash of Clans subscription experience.
Final Thoughts on Using Pop Culture and Technology to Teach Kids Money Lessons
The above stories are just three examples of how parents can harness the power of daily situations to teach kids money lessons and prepare them for financial success. While you may not find yourself faced with the same types of scenarios as happened in my family, you’re sure to notice opportunities for similar discussions and money lessons in your family if you keep your eyes and ears open.