Financial literary should begin in the home. And it should start when a child is in their infancy.
However, that’s seldom been the case – particularly in minority homes where experts say teaching young ones the principles of budgeting early could go a long way in securing a strong financial future.
“I think it is very important for students to learn the basics of personal finance at a young age. This can begin in preschool with the basics of counting pennies, nickels and quarters,” said Lamont Black, an assistant professor of Finance in the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University in Chicago.
“By second or third grade, children should be learning about jobs and income so that they can appreciate why their parents work. This is also a good time to learn about the importance of saving for something the child hopes to purchase,” said Black, who also serves as academic director for the Center for Financial Services and who formerly served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in northwest D.C.
“Alongside these skills, teaching the values of frugality and generosity will help guide children’s money decisions for many years to come,” he said.
In her 2013 book, “Do I Look Like an ATM?: Parents’ Guide to Raising Responsible African-American Children,” author Sabrina Lamb notes that while some school districts and corporations encourage the notion of financial education for young people, many do little beyond creating financial teaching materials.
“Empowering our children through financial education begins at home with parents because beliefs about money are formed in the home,” Lamb said. “As generational wealth slips through our fingers, it is no longer advisable for either parents or children to remain ignorant of these issues, particularly when a parent is confronted with them daily,” she said.
The Center for American Progress surveyed African Americans and Latinos and found that African-American respondents were most receptive to education and counseling provided to consumers.
Fifty-six percent of African Americans described personal debt levels as a serious problem at the beginning of the survey. When asked again at the end of the poll, 70 percent of African-Americans described debt as a serious problem. Further, Black respondents were much less likely to see household debt as a middle-class-only issue.
Only 54 percent said that debt is an issue that faces middle-class families as well as low-income households, compared to 79 percent of all respondents.
Thirty-nine percent of African-American respondents thought the economy was most responsible for the debt problem, compared to only 24 percent of all respondents.
“First, and foremost, parents should teach their children the value of money and how it will affect their present and future,” Lamb said.
“Parents should consider giving allowances to their children, along with lessons on earning and managing their own bank accounts. Parents should also allow their children to have part-time jobs or receive payment for certain household chores so they can develop and maintain a working and entrepreneurial spirit,” she said.
Further, Lamb suggests that parents should always have their children observe their online bank transactions and, from time to time, accompany them to the bank.
While there, children should be shown how to make deposits and withdrawals and be taught about the functions of bank employees in ways they can understand.
“These hands-on field trips will get children invested in how money flows beyond their parents’ wallets. This process will also familiarize children with finance and mathematics so that later in life numbers and computation do not intimidate them,” said Lamb, an NAACP Image Award nominee who has authored other books including “A Kettle of Vultures” and “Celebrity Elect.”
Parents should teach their children to become financially literate and they can do so by enrolling them in programs like Youth Investment Club, Camp Millionaire, the WorldofMoney.org, Youth Financial Education Institute, or others across the country, Lamb says.
“Parents, acting as role models, need to show their children how they manage money in a positive way so that finances become part of the family culture and a natural and healthy part of children’s psyches,” Lamb said.