Making dollars make sense 

Why money matters for your kids 

By Lindsey Bunin

With the price of most things on the rise, money is top of mind for many Nova Scotian families. While it can be a sensitive subject, opening the money conversation in your home can be beneficial for every member of the household.

According to Brenda Kenney of JA Nova Scotia (an organization offering financial literacy, workplace readiness and entrepreneurship programming in local schools and online) some families don’t address finances the way they should. 

“Many parents don’t talk to their kids about the financial situation the family’s in,” says Kenney. “They either don’t want to or don’t have the knowledge to pass on that kind of information. It’s getting harder to not live paycheque to paycheque with the cost of fuel and groceries, and obviously housing is a huge factor as well.”

The JA Nova Scotia courses cover topics suitable for grades 3 to 12, and in the past year has had 11,506 students participate in school-based programs and 54 students independently complete the program through an online portal.

The Dollars with Sense program, for example, makes learning fun for high school students by using games and multimedia. Students learn about budgeting, money management, credit management, saving, investing and financial goal setting.

“I think it’s critical for our kids to be prepared,” says Kenney, who has been with the organization 30 years. “Our society wants instant gratification, so wanting to save for the future while also enjoying today is an important skill to learn.”

Times have changed

Allison Findlay is a mom with two adult children. When her kids were young, she tried to instill the value of a dollar, much like her own parents had done with her. 

“As a child, my first lessons were more about making do with what we had,” she says of her experience growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. “You would borrow things from friends versus buying something, you would stretch your food as far as you could, and you bought things only when on sale.”

As her kids grew, they earned an allowance for age-appropriate chores and got part-time jobs as soon as they were able. In addition to earning, saving was just as paramount in the Findlay household. They used the 50, 25, 15 and 10-per-cent rule. Fifty per cent was for them to use as they liked, but they had to budget for things using that money.

“Like if they wanted sneakers that cost more than I was going to pay, a new video game, a trip, car insurance or gas money… things like that,” she explains. “Twenty-five per cent went to their education fund, 15 per cent was to contribute toward gifts for family and friends, and 10 per cent was for charity.” 

The challenge with allowance, Findlay notes, was making sure the kids understood some chores were their contribution to the family and household, while other chores were things they would get paid for, then applying that logic to real life as they got older.

“We also tried to show them why a budget is important, like having them do a grocery order for $20 with a list I gave them and trying to get it all for the money they had.”

While $20 certainly wouldn’t go very far at the grocery store today, a similar challenge would still teach children a valuable lesson.

Findlay’s daughter, Kayla, recalls being less than thrilled with her parents’ saving rules at the time but is grateful for the knowledge now. 

“When I was in school, they didn’t talk about money,” she says. “All of my money knowledge came from learning at home… Now as an adult, and having a true understanding of money, I wish I’d saved more as a kid. If I knew then what I know now I would not have been annoyed about saving.”   

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