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Raising financially savvy farm kids

Daniel King for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 September 2018
Saving money

Can you download an app that will raise financially savvy kids? I would say, more than likely, no. In today’s educational system, many kids can’t or won’t take courses in banking, personal finance or budgeting.

Important life lessons are difficult to pass on from one generation to another, but I believe parents and grandparents are going to be tasked with sharing essential financial management information with upcoming next generations.

Even though there is not an app to teach kids how to be financially savvy, there are some basic things that can be done to help kids learn some important lessons – especially in a ranch setting.

You can’t eat the harvest before you plant

Generally speaking, society today wants things immediately. A new pair of shoes can be delivered in two days – the exact style and size wanted. Groceries can now be ordered online and picked up curbside the next day. It seems everything is at our fingertips. However, that doesn’t include life lessons.

Being involved in agriculture can provide effective ways to teach this lesson to kids. Where possible, teach kids the lesson of delayed gratification. Help them understand not everything can be obtained instantaneously. If children have an allowance, consider paying them on a monthly basis. This may allow them to budget their expenses.

Encourage them to raise their own animals or even grow a vegetable garden. That way, they can learn on a personal level the concept of “fruits of their labors.”

Use the tools of technology

Kids today seem to grow up with technology as an extension of who they are. Most kids, by the time they go to school, have been exposed to internet, WiFi, social media, apps, smartphones and laptops. I believe in order to teach kids about finances, you need to use technology to keep them engaged.

Did you know there are apps that can help teach basic banking, savings and tracking skills? I encourage you to search the internet for these sources and apps. Use key words like “piggy bank” for starters. Select an app you like, understand and can navigate.

Then you can introduce the app to your child. You can set up regular days or times to check on their progress. By using technology, they may be more open to learning because it is on their phone.

Hands-on learning

It seems many kids surf the web day in and day out trying to find something of interest. However, I find that, with all the information available, they don’t have practical knowledge. For example, they can watch a video on how to change out brake pads but, until they actually do it, they don’t internalize it. I believe the same thing is relevant for financial matters.

So I encourage people to take kids to meet with their financial adviser, banker or accountant. The teaching can start at home. For example, show them how it is done and then have them fill out a check themselves.

One thing my wife and I did with our four children was to use an allowance as a means to teach financial responsibility. First, we didn’t just give them money without them earning the money. To receive an allowance, certain chores had to be completed.

We also provided them opportunities to earn more money for extra chores. This process in and of itself taught the importance of work.

The next step is to introduce objectives for the money. You can establish your own objectives. I suggest you choose items easy for the kids to understand and of importance for you as parents. Our objectives were tithing and/or charity, personal saving and, finally, spending money.

We required the kids to put 10 percent of every dime they earned into an envelope for tithing and another 10 percent in an envelope for savings; the final envelope for spending money. It wasn’t very high-tech, but the envelopes worked for us.

The whole idea of envelopes can be used to teach budgeting as well. Put cash in an envelope for eating out, entertainment, gifts, groceries, gas for the car, etc. Once the cash is gone, you can’t spend any more for items in that category. If the envelope is empty, the money is gone – no credit.

Another idea is to get them involved in projects that require money to accomplish. I think 4-H is a perfect example of how to teach kids how to manage resources. My neighbor’s son wanted to raise chickens. Their solution was to keep track of all the costs: building the chicken coop, buying chickens and buying feed.

Then, he had to make enough money to pay back his parents. Whatever idea you use, make sure it is hands-on, and the kids have to buy into the process.

One final thought is to teach them the importance of shopping. No, not going to the mall to buy whatever is on sale. Showing them the importance of determining what they actually need and then researching the best price for that item.

If they are saving to buy a new item, and using their own money, it may help them select something practical and not something that is a luxury (a “want”) and not actually needed.

I believe no matter how much technology is out there or apps available for use, the responsibility to teach kids to be financially savvy falls to parents, grandparents and financial advisers. I encourage you to lead by example, and use the resources you have available.

A ranch setting can provide the perfect opportunity to teach kids that hard work now can help them and their children be financially savvy for years to come.  end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

The article is meant for educational purposes only. It should not be considered investment advice, nor does it constitute a recommendation to take a particular course of action. It should not be applied or relied upon in any particular individual’s situation. Please consult with a financial professional regarding your personal situation prior to making any financial-related decisions. Investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal.

Waddell & Reed is not affiliated with 4-H.

Daniel R. King II
  • Daniel R. King II

  • Financial Adviser
  • Waddell & Reed Inc.
  • Email Daniel R. King II