How to Raise Money-Wise Military Kids
Raising Money-Wise Military Kids
Guest Post by Chloe N. Moore
While all parents face the challenges associated with teaching their kids about money, military families face a distinct set of challenges in doing so. Military life brings with it more unknowns, especially for military kids. From deciding whether to rent on or off base or buy a home, to the budgeting chaos that the endless parade of special pays can bring, there is a lot that can throw families off.
Combine those challenges with the chaos of moving and separations, and money conversations with our military kids can fall through the cracks. But, a study by the University of Cambridge found that money habits are formed by the time a child is 7 years old.
Military life can be utilized in such a way that we can give our kids an extra level of preparedness for the day when they’re responsible for managing their own finances. It’s simply a matter of taking advantage of our unique life situations in a way that benefits our kids.
Be An Example
This is ground zero for teaching virtually anything. It’s a research-backed truth that no matter the culture, kids imitate what their parents do — even to a fault. So, there’s a good chance your kids have already and will continue to pick up financial characteristics from you; the only question is what kind of habits they’re seeing.
Include them in conversations: Parents should make a personal decision about how much of the curtain to pull back for their kids. There’s certainly wisdom in recognizing the value of shielding them from certain aspects of your financial reality. However, there’s also something to be said for allowing your kids to experience the process of working through financial decisions.
Be hands-on: Take it a step further; more than just allowing them to be bystanders, you can consider how to allow your military kids to be active participants. Show them how to balance the checkbook, and then let them try. Take them through the pros and cons of whether or not to buy a house so that whether your family moves into base housing or your own home the next time you PCS, they understand why.
Show Them How To Manage What They Have
It can be tempting to believe that kids, relatively speaking, do not have many funds, and that those funds can’t play a role in the financial identity your child cultivates. However, any money is enough. More than that, your kids may surprise you in terms of their interest and commitment to making smart moves with their money.
As Katie McBeth writes for Fiscal Tiger, “It is very possible that the Generation Z group was born into the right time. Our economy is improving, and our job market is ever growing. Individuals who are fluent in technology are in high demand, and the entire generation is well adapted to the modern age. It could be that Generation Z will be the next Baby Boomer success: brought into a booming economy from the get-go.”
As soon as kids can talk, they usually make it clear they understand the dynamic of spending. For parents, the challenge is encouraging kids to think critically about the purchases they make. You can adjust the specifics of the conversation so that they are age appropriate.
Good questions include:
- Can you think of something you’d rather have?
- How long did it take you to earn or save funds to be able to purchase the item?
- Do you think you’ll still want it in a month?
The point is not to keep your child from ever spending but to approach spending thoughtfully. With older military kids especially, there’s value in discussing the fact that the result of too much spending is debt, and debt can radically alter one’s financial prospects.
Saving money typically doesn’t come naturally to anyone, and for kids — who are less acquainted with the value of delayed gratification — it can be especially challenging. But there are ways parents can encourage and challenge their kids to see the value in saving.
Don’t provide all their wants: If your kids have no need to save, they won’t. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with treating your kids, giving them a reason to save their own money is also a manner of loving them well.
Help them work towards goals: One of the best ways to encourage and motivate them to hold on to the funds they do have is to help them understand what saving can provide. For kids of all ages, they may just need some help recognizing what they can purchase with a little patience.
Most Americans surveyed by Capital Group, in their recent report, said they wished someone had taught them about money earlier in their life. No one can be a perfect financial advisor, but the earlier we start and the more we cover, the better the odds that our kids will walk into adulthood with a level of preparedness.
Think Long Term (and help them think that way too)
One thing kids often struggle to understand is the reality that life flies by. In the midst of adolescence, adulthood often feels far off. But, rather quickly, adulthood clears that up for us, and understanding that changes how we manage our finances.
You keep what you save: Again, a call to remember that while the funds gained after something like a summer of lawn-mowing may not seem like much, they add up.
Habits made now will be future habits: It’s as simple and helpful as that! The perspective your kids have on money will, at least to some degree, carry over into adulthood. Perhaps one of the best markers of how well they’ll do with a lot is how well they do with a little.
There are always things you can learn: There’s value in bringing kids in on decision making so that when those decisions are theirs, they’ll have the experience to guide them. Beyond that, you can do what’s possible beforehand.
For example, if you have a college-bound teenager, that opens the door for a lot of conversations that will serve them far beyond the halls of a college campus. Do they understand how the interest on their student loans will work? Have they considered where the funds for other expenses will come from?
The fact that military parents have an ever-changing financial reality should not deter them from believing they can make a meaningful impact on the money habits and attitudes their children form. Instead, we often have even more to work with. There are countless real-world opportunities during which we can foster conversation, and ultimately understanding so that our military kids have the foundational tools they need to make smart choices for themselves and their future families.