Is money a taboo topic in your house? I'm not ashamed to admit that I think about money day and night, and therefore I discuss it with my kids as well. But, I know many families who believe that money is a private matter and avoid any discussions. Along with many other financial geeks, I wholeheartedly disagree with this approach. I believe that you should discuss money with your children starting in their toddler years. We've begun this journey with our two- and four-year-olds, and I'm often asked about our methods, so I wanted to share them.I'm a big believer that children should contribute to the overall household, but that they should also be given the opportunity to earn their own money with chores in hopes of teaching them a strong work ethic. Because our kids are so young, we made a chore chart using clip art to list out their chores, and even our 2-year-old can interpret them. Each time they do a chore, they get a sticker. We have a second poster which lists the house rules, such as "be nice to others," and the chore chart has a penalty section for stickers used when a rule is broken. At the end of the week, we add up the chore stickers and hand our sons the quarters they have earned. We then pull away the number of quarters that match up to their penalty stickers so they visually see the effect of breaking rules. Whatever is left over gets split into three pots: half goes into long-term savings, one-fourth goes to the charity of their choice and the remaining one-fourth becomes spending money. Of course, quarters will become dollars in a few years, but at this point in time, it doesn't cost us more than a few dollars a week.One of the trickiest parts of this plan is the discipline that it takes us as parents to implement it. Our sons generally use their spending money to buy toys they want. Since it's their money, we often have to bite our tongues if they want to buy a toy we think is silly or useless. But, it's not up to us to judge their purchases, and since they've earned the money themselves, it's important that we support their hard work and let them spend it without sharing our judgment.In a very short time, we've seen that our sons have learned a few lessons. When we are at a store and they want something, they ask us if they have enough money, rather than asking us to buy it for them. They are also starting to save up for larger purchases and are learning that months of hard work leads to bigger rewards. When we first started this process, we had to beg and plead to get them to perform a chore, but just a few months into it, I've caught my older son feeding the dog on his own and then walking to the chart to put on a sticker.There is no doubt that teaching kids about money is a lifelong endeavor, but I remain a believer that the earlier you start, the more success you will have. The lessons they are learning in quarters now will hopefully translate to a long-term respect for money and the value of hard work.Michele Knight, owner of Knight Accounting & Technology, is a CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor based in Dillon. For more info and to contact her, visit www.cpamichele.com.
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