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Financial Literacy for All Ages

Amber Brandt  |  November 28, 2023
Did you know experts believe you can begin teaching children the foundations of financial literacy at age 3? While they’re still years from having a checking account or financing a car, early counting and critical thinking plays a key role in developing a strong understanding of money and decision making.
According to, here are reasonable milestones for helping your child develop financial literacy:

Age 3: Counting to 10. Children’s brains develop in spurts, and the official first “critical period” occurs between ages 2 and 3. This is a great time to introduce counting songs and learning 1-10.
Age 4: Play number games. This is a great time to roleplay with toy cash registers and play credit cards, as well as incorporating very simple math like 2+2.
Age 5: Delay gratification. At 5, kids have an easier time understanding the order and relationship to time for instance, we’re going to the store and when we get back in the car, you can have your treat. You can also begin talking to them about the values of different paper bills and coins, and how different items cost different amounts of money.

Age 6: Introduce allowance. If this is something you wish to do in your home, 6 is a great age to begin learning how to budget and manage money – simple saving and spending. Here's Invetopedia's advice about kids and allowance.

Age 7: Understanding value. By 7 kids have had a unit in school about money, so they better understand it’s value and can begin planning, delaying decisions, and making choices.
Age 8: Understanding want vs. need. This is a great time to talk about what are luxuries and what are necessities. Kids often think their parents have unlimited resources and just need to zip their card through the reader. When kids understand more of what it takes to run a household, they get a better idea of how you should prioritize and save.
Age 9: Starting to save. Around this age, kids start wanting the clothing, devices, or games their friends have. It’s a good time to help them start setting small goals for things they want, and saving to they can purchase themselves.
Age 10: Talking about debt. By now your kids may begin borrowing/lending a dollar here or there with friends at school and may be starting to know how bad it feels to run low on cash, need to ask for help, or to owe something you can’t pay right away. It’s a perfect on ramp to talk about debt and credit in a broader sense.

Age 11: Talking about online scams and advertising. Our kids are often much wiser to online scams than we are, but opening dialogue about how easy it is to get caught up in financial problems online is important as they get more active and possibly independent online. Here's an article that may help guide the discussion.

Age 12: Explore smart shopping. Now that your child has some money saved and plans for how they want to spend it, teach them how to shop deals, and compare prices online.
Age 13: Talk about household expenses. At 8 you introduced the difference between want and need, but now they’re ready for more detail on unseen housing costs like heating, electricity, internet, or water – even car maintenance or house repairs.
Age 14: Introduce investing. Our kids are growing up in a different world than we did with cryptocurrencies and online investing. You don’t have to fully jump into the stock market with them, but introducing the basic functions can show them how to grow money wisely.
Age 15: Break down credit. Kids will be able to apply for credit cards at 18, so this is a good time to talk to them about the difference between debit cards, store cards, and credit. Explain how borrowing on credit works, and ultimately that they’ll pay back more than they borrowed long term. This site introduces some simple ways to talk about credit cards so they'll understand.

Age 16: Talk about earning power and work. By now your child may have a job they can drive to during the summer or after school. They’ll be thinking about and experiencing money in a totally new way. Help them develop some goals and limits around their money.
Age 17: Front load their credit report. Your child may not understand how bank loans work or that they’ll even have a credit report following them around through adulthood. Explain that it includes their personal information, details on credit they have, and that future employers and companies will be able to request them. (Depending on when you started them in school, you may also need to begin talking about student loans.) Here are some more tips for talking credit with your kids.

Age 18: Discuss student loans. Your child may not even be aware how much their future education will cost, and that there are two types of loans, that come with different characteristics and repayment options. If you’re not sure how to advise them, here's a great website to help.

If you’re looking for more practical ways and resources to approach financial literacy by age and stage, check out this helpful article from CNBC.

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