These days, we’re all spending more time at home—especially our kids. This makes it an ideal time to start giving children a financial literacy foundation that can help keep them stable and successful for the rest of their lives. Teaching good financial habits can start sooner than you think.
Children start to grasp the concept of saving when they’re old enough to slide coins into a piggy bank. Around kindergarten, they have a sense that money is important. When they ask for allowance or want to buy a coveted toy, it makes sense to open a bank account and start teaching them money management basics – and values around spending and saving.
Minor children by law can’t open a savings account. They need a parent or guardian to set up a custodial or joint account. A custodial account is the property of the child, but managed by the parent until the child turns 18. With a joint account, parent and child both have access, but the adult can supervise or limit activity, say, putting a cap on the amount the child can withdraw the account by actively monitoring the activity. Both types can later be converted to their own accounts.
As you shop around, look for a bank that encourages young savers with low (or no) fees and balance requirements. And just as with your money, make sure your child’s account is FDIC-protected.
Beyond those basics, here are five tips for getting your child excited about banking – and starting on a lifetime of sound financial habits.
Tie the concept of saving in a bank account to waiting for something that’s worthwhile. If you’re in line for an ice cream cone, remind them the result is a treat they really want. Saving is similar; you save for something you’ll want or need later on. With older kids, help them think of savings in terms of goals, achieved over time. For instance, they may want to plan for purchasing their own car, or be prepared to help with college costs.
It’s tempting to look for online banking or to manage your child’s money yourself. But help kids participate in setting up an account. Call your bank in advance for an appointment, and have your child carry in necessary information (see Items to bring to the bank). Some kids are thrilled to participate in a business meeting where they’re center stage, but help out a shy child.
Also, ask if it’s possible to tour the bank; some allow kids a peek at their vault or room of safe deposit boxes, aka treasure chests. It never hurts, either, if tellers offer a lollipop after transactions, or if children can run the family’s change through a coin-sorting machine. These experiences make the bank feel welcoming and enjoyable, which helps a banking habit stick in future.
Incorporate a stop at the bank to deposit allowances, earnings and gifts part of your family’s regular routine. More broadly, remember you’re modeling financial behavior all the time, whether you intend to or not. Talk out loud about your spending and saving decisions, for instance, when you add money to a family vacation fund. Identify ways you save at the grocery store, and point out when something is a splurge. All this helps children learn the value and uses of money.
Nothing motivates financial awareness and a solid savings habit like interest or matching funds. Show your child how earning interest works: for simply leaving her money in the bank, she earns a bit more of it. If you want to reinforce saving even more, consider matching your child’s savings when, say he’s saving for a particular goal. “If you save $50 toward your ice skates this month, I will match that amount.”
A six-year-old may not be ready to read her bank statement and reconcile her account, but by the time she’s 10, she could give it a try. By the time children get their first jobs, they will be learning about taxes. And by the time they have their first email accounts, they should be aware of financial scams and schemes that seem too good to be true. By starting their financial education when they’re young, they’ll gain both confidence and savvy when it comes to making sound decisions.
What you need to have to open a joint account with your child:
Interested in opening a checking account for your children? Explore U.S. Bank options.