Making the grade for financial literacy

Activities for different ages help teach responsibility with money

Learning about money at an early age sets children on a path for future financial wellness. A 2018 study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) found that financial literacy in America is declining. Financial Literacy Month in April is a great opportunity to help your family increase their fiscal knowledge. Here are a few ideas based on what grade your child is in to help you explore important concepts like saving, creating a budget, and paying off debt as a family.

Preschool. Count everything. Make counting a game. Help your child begin to grow an awareness of adding and subtracting items by counting various objects around the house like toys, foods, or other everyday items in their world.

You can even play games that include money like “grocery store.” To do this, gather simple items from around your home that your child is familiar with and practice assigning a cost. This playtime can be an easy lesson about the cost of familiar objects and the importance of not being wasteful.

K-2. Practice addition and subtraction in everyday life. At meal times, include your child in preparation by having them count out food items like grapes or crackers. You can have them practice adding items to the plate, and then subtracting them as they eat.

This is also a great time to have an informal conversation about what various family members do for a living. This conversation can be very simple, but it will have an impact on the way your child perceives those jobs in the future.

3-5. Practice saving with money that your child earns or receives as a gift (tooth fairy, birthday, holiday gifts) for both short-term and long-term goals. Discuss how little amounts add up over time when you are saving for something specific.

Teach them how savings and spending accounts work and explain how a 529 account works for their future educational goals. Set up a basic savings account and have them begin saving a portion of their allowance.

Kid playing game with parent.

6-8. Teach your child how to budget. Have them help you manage a small part of the household budget – like the snack budget. Give them a set amount of money, and then let them choose which items you will purchase. Challenge them to make the money last all month.

Play board games like Monopoly, Life, Cover Your Assets, and others as a family to allow them to practice buying and selling with pretend money.

Babysitting jobs or mowing the neighbor’s lawn can be great first jobs that will teach your child responsibility and basic financial management as they begin earning their own money.


9-12. Begin researching higher education options together. Get them excited about college by visiting college campuses when you are in the area.

Research college costs. Visit the College Savings Estimator on the my529 website. Have a conversation about how much the family will be able to contribute toward college costs and align target schools within those amounts.

If your child is working part-time, advise them to begin saving a portion of their paychecks. Encourage them to contribute their own money toward their 529 account and help them track their investment in that account.

Driving can be a big-budget item that comes with significant costs. Help them practice their understanding of budgeting by discussing the cost of the car, the insurance, the gas, or any other necessary expenses. If you are making payments on their car, this is a great time to talk about debt and how to pay it off. Take this opportunity to explain interest rates, loans and credit scores and the importance of paying your bills on time.

An interest-ing lesson

Teach your child a quick lesson using compound interest. Have them put 10 pennies in a “savings jar” and tell them that they will earn 10% interest on what is in the jar every day.

Each day, count the pennies. On the first day, there will be 10 pennies, so you will add one penny. On the second day, there will be 11 pennies, so add another penny.

On day 11, you should have 20 pennies. At this point, add two pennies to the savings jar. On day 12, 13, 14, 15, add two pennies each day. By day 16, you will have 30 pennies, so begin adding three pennies each day. On day 20, you will put in four pennies.

Babysitting jobs or mowing the neighbor’s lawn can be great first jobs that will teach your child responsibility and basic financial management as they begin earning their own money.