Money Matters: How to be your kids’ primary personal finance teacher | News, Sports, Jobs


Did you know that Utah was the first state in the nation to make financial literacy a course requirement for graduating high school? It’s true! And it seems to be helping.

A study by the Utah State Auditor’s office conducted a financial literacy survey to compare Utah high school graduates who had taken the general financial literacy (GFL) course with their peers who didn’t and their peers in surrounding states.

“The survey results indicate that Utah public high school graduates who took one of the GFL courses for graduation exhibited higher average scores on both the knowledge and behavior questions,” the report says. “There is a correlation between Utah’s GFL course participation and improved personal financial knowledge and behavior for the past decade of graduates.”

This is a positive result, but it doesn’t mean parents are off the hook. Building a strong financial foundation starts at home! So talk to your kids about money, help them practice money management and set a good example. You will be setting them up for financial success, and the financial literacy high school course will be a nice bonus.

1. Make money an ongoing conversation

Talking about money doesn’t need to be awkward. Start small and build up to an ongoing conversation that your kids come to expect.

“Talking about money can’t be relegated to a one-time conversation,” said Lynne Somerman, money coach and founder of The Wiser Miser. “It needs to be part of the day-in, day-out conversation. As money topics come up and your kids are around, talk about them as openly as you feel comfortable.”

To put this into practice, involve your kids in everyday financial decisions. Planning your weekly menu? Have your kids look through grocery mailers to see what ingredients are on sale and then build the menu around that. Or tell them how much is budgeted for summer bathing suits and let them choose a couple of cheaper suits or one more expensive one.

2. Help kids earn and save for themselves

When we manage all the money for our kids’ school supplies and fun items, it becomes difficult for them to learn the value of a dollar. Help younger kids earn money in exchange for chores before they go to the toy store to buy a birthday present for their friend. Work with teenagers to find an after-school or summer job to pay for a day trip they want to take during your upcoming family vacation. It may be hard (for all of you!) at first, but giving kids hands-on experience is truly doing them a huge favor.

What else can you do? Here are some ideas for different age groups.

  • For elementary school children: Have them put their savings into a Mason jar so they can see their money growing. Help them distinguish between different types of savings. For example, saving up to buy a small toy at the store is a short-term savings goal, saving for soccer cleats next fall is long-term and saving a fund in case their bike tire pops is emergency savings.
  • For pre-teens: Work with them to make a personal budget that includes savings. This is a good time to teach them principles like spending less than you earn and paying yourself first.
  • For teenagers: Help them set up a bank account, then remind them to deposit their money so they can watch their compound interest grow!

3. Set a good example

Actions speak louder than words, so discipline yourself to live the financial principles you are teaching your kids. Make sure you are making sound financial decisions that will benefit both you and your kids as they watch and learn.

“Money matters don’t have to be so complicated,” said Lyle Daly at “There are a few key principles that can make or break you, and if you want to build a strong financial future, then you need to know them by heart.”

Here are five principles everyone should follow:

  1. Spend less than you earn. The rule of thumb is that you should save at least 20 percent of your income.
  2. Maximize your income. “The amount you can save by reducing your spending is limited,” Daly said. “Instead of trying to budget your way to being rich, you’re much better off looking for ways to make more money. Negotiating a raise, finding a higher-paying job, freelancing, or starting a business on the side are all ways you can bring more money in.”
  3. Plan for emergencies. Save up an emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses. Make sure you have adequate health, renter’s/homeowner’s and auto insurance.
  4. Build your credit. Pay off your credit card each month, pay your bills on time and don’t exceed your credit limit. These behaviors will make you eligible for better interest rates, car insurance rates and perhaps even better jobs.
  5. Save for retirement. Save each month and take advantage of the tax breaks offered through 401(k)s or IRAs. Every bit counts!

Financial literacy education may be required in Utah high schools, but parents should help their kids learn sound personal finance habits from a young age. Talk to your kids about money, help them practice money management, follow the principles you teach them and consider getting help from professionals for some tailored guidance. You and your kids will benefit from being proactively wise with your money.


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