Everywhere I go, I've seen parents use bumper stickers to gloat about how great their kids are:
"My child is an honor student"
"Proud parent of an Eagle Scout"
"My grandchildren are cuter than yours"
And then you have the window stickers for high school sports put up there by parents who are so proud of their children's talent and achievements. When I was in high school, I once even saw a gigantic painted sign in someone's front yard with our high school mascot and their son's football jersey number.
It's not a sin to be proud of your kids. In fact, I think it's extremely important for children to see their parents show confidence in their abilities, talents and interests (although the giant sign was probably a little too much). But what about this one?
"My child saves more than yours"
Now we're talking! I mean, I'm an Eagle Scout and I was an honor student, and I'm glad that my parents were proud of that. But I wish personal finance lessons were more emphasized with our kids. Many people have attempted to push personal finance classes as required high school and college curriculum, but just because it's part of the curriculum doesn't mean our kids are going to learn it. After all, how many of our kids have taken home economics classes and still don't know how to thread a needle or boil water?
Parents should be financial teachers
The bulk of the responsibility of teaching our kids lies with the parents. Parents who try to push that responsibility onto others will get the unintended consequences of having their children taught by the media and advertising agencies. It's therefore important that parents take ownership of their children's education about personal finance. It's the parents who need to teach their kids how to budget and save. Those are things that parents should be instilling in their children as essential life skills rather than focusing on more fleeting things that don't have long-term effects.
Set savings goals
What if we applauded our children's efforts to save? Better yet, what if we gave them goals to save for things that we would otherwise just buy them? How do you think that will shape their expectations for when they are on their own? After all, financial security in adulthood can have enormous influence good or bad in marriage, work life and overall happiness.
My in-laws did a great job with teaching their children how to save and why it's important to save. With each paycheck they received from babysitting or after-school jobs, they were expected to save 50 percent, and always have a goal in mind they were saving for. That has since then translated into a solid saving habit in my wife and she is always consciously aware of our financial situation. On the other hand, children who are not expected to save or learn financial responsibility generally don't learn it later on because their habits are already deeply ingrained.
Create good habits
In many instances, this also means that parents need to educate themselves on good financial behaviors and habits. Again, it is important parents take ownership to educate their children. A comprehensive understanding of financial planning isn't necessary. Just a basic understanding of things like creating a budget, saving, setting goals and debt is good enough to help your children understand most of the things they need to know.
Who knows - maybe one day we'll see bumper stickers pop up that say, "My child saves more than yours." Probably not. But I'm sure that one day your kids will thank you. Teaching your kids to save now will also make your pocketbook a lot heavier in the future because you won't be providing economic out-patient care for kids who didn't learn early on to be financially self-reliant.