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Teaching Money Smarts from the Start

Over the decades, we’ve watched plenty of our customers’ kids (and even grandkids) grow up and become customers themselves. We’ve seen firsthand the benefits of teaching good money habits at an early age, right alongside other life lessons about character, self-care, friendships, work, and play. Few things you give your children will ever be as valuable as these investments in their future.

So how do you get started? Keep reading for our favorite practical and friendly ways to cultivate good money habits in your little ones. We’ve even got ideas that can make saving fun!

Building Strong Foundations

Having “the right idea” about money starts with learning two fundamental, if somewhat abstract, concepts.

Value: Money isn’t just shiny coins and colorful pieces of paper. It has value. It takes time and effort to acquire. It can be exchanged for things you want, whether that’s a toy, a treat, or an experience. It can even provide less tangible rewards like security and choices, though these ideas take longer to grasp. That brings us to the second concept.

Discipline: Learning to save money for tomorrow that you could use to buy something today teaches the skill of delayed gratification. As kids grasp the idea of waiting to achieve a more significant goal, they’ll build patience that will serve them well in all aspects of life.

Make a Game of Saving

Until kids are a bit older, many of the basic concepts of money remain pretty abstract—they don’t have much money themselves, or much that they need to buy. But making a game of it allows them to feel the excitement that saving can bring.

Opportunities to do this range from old-school to cutting-edge. Board games like “Monopoly” teach both the ups and downs of money—without the consequences. There are also plenty of kid-friendly apps that simulate financial scenarios can make the learning process enjoyable.

One of our time-honored favorites is a game called “Three Jars.” Take three jars and label them Spend, Save, and Give. Help your children decide how to divide their money—start by suggesting 10% for Give, and let them choose the portions for the other two jars. Every time they have loose change, birthday gifts, or allowance money, help them calculate how much goes into each jar. The excitement of watching those jars fill up gives kids a tangible measure of how much they’re saving—and an equally tangible reminder that once you spend it, you don’t have it anymore.

Encourage kids to set savings goals. Whether it’s for a favorite toy, a special outing, or even long-term savings for something bigger, having a goal adds purpose to their efforts.

You can even sweeten the deal with a bonus system where reaching certain savings milestones earns your child a small reward. This will motivate them, but just as important, it’s a great way to introduce the power of compound interest. Which brings us to our final tip.

Sign up for the Star Savers Club

Did someone say rewards? Make sure your kids are signed up for our Star Savers club—a program designed to make financial learning exciting for kids from birth to age 18. By opening a Star Savers account, your child not only starts saving and earning interest but also receives delightful surprises, including treats, birthday celebrations, and fun packages delivered to their home. To join, just stop into your local Farmers & Merchants Bank, talk to your friendly banker, and open an account. You’ll all walk out a little smarter, and you’ll have your first gift in hand: a super cool Star Savers T-shirt!

Happy saving!