Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Money and Little People: The Conversation

This post was underwritten by BMO Harris Bank, which offers a matching $25 on a new savings account opened for your child through their Helpful Steps for Parents program. Learn more at

A few years ago I found myself completely bewildered when my then eldest child was having trouble with the concept of money in her first grade currency unit. And when I say she had trouble with money, I don’t mean she had trouble with addition or was feeling the weight of mountains of credit card debt, she had trouble identifying the actually pieces of currency. We spent endless nights doing homework with her saying things like, no no the BIG one is the quarter and the LITTLE one is the dime.  Once she was able to identify all the coins, it was yet another task to learn what each of them was actually worth.

Dear God! By her age I knew exactly what a quarter looked like and what it was worth because it could get me a WHOLE candy bar.

But these days, treats, whether they are candy bars or Pokemon cards, are scooped up at the store with the swipe of a magic plastic card. And it dawned on me during those first grade years that my kids needed to see me using more CASH to really understand money and spending. Please tell me I am not the only mom out there who just never carries actual dollar bills.

Money is a slippery slope these days with our dodgy economy and job market so who knows what it is going to look like when my babes are released into the free world in about 12 years. As a result, we talk about money as often as we can at our house. I want my kids to understand how it is earned and how it is used. It took them a little while to understand that money doesn’t just come from an ATM machine and that we can take out only what we put into that bank of ours.

We do not have a general weekly allowance here at our house. I want our kids to grasp that the amount of money they get as an allowance is directly related to the amount of work they do. And some jobs pay better than others. We have what we call the pearl system. I have a large jar of pearls and each pearl is worth 25 cents. For each chore they do, they get a certain amount of pearls in their individual jars. The first day of the Pearl Program I told the kids, I needed someone to empty the dishwasher and someone to pooper-scoop the back yard. I’ve never seen two kids actually fight to unload a dishwasher. Before they were officially assigned their chores, I asked if they wanted to know the pearl value for each job. Pooper-scoopering would garner more pearls than the dishwasher. Hum. Now there was something to think about.

I am always on the look out for ways to engage my kids in a healthy discussion about money. I was excited to be chosen by BMO Harris Bank to do a post about kids and money because it is a topic I hadn’t thought of bringing here. I think it is a great conversation for parents to bat around so we can all learn from each other. How do you guys talk to your kids about money? I’d love to hear your ideas!

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. To learn more about BMO Harris Bank, visit their website

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