The Thrift Shop – Where your kids can learn about money

Personal finance is a subject many parents want to avoid, even if not consciously. Sometimes it’s something parents don’t speak about too much even between themselves, but it surely is a subject most parents avoid discussing with their children. This is a mistake.

Survey after survey reveals how parents avoid discussing money with their children.

According to the 11th annual (2019) T. RowePrice Parents, Kids & Money survey, when asked how often do you discuss money or financial topics with your child, 8% of the parents surveyed said never; 28% said once a month or less; and 30% said a few times a month.

Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that most of us simply do not have sufficient knowledge to deal with personal finance issues. For example, the 2016 National Financial Capability Study done by FINRA’s Investor Education Foundation found that just 37 percent of respondents are considered to have “high financial literacy,” meaning they could answer four or more questions on a five-question financial literacy quiz.  This is down from 39 percent in 2012 and 42 percent in 2009.

Recently, I was in a used furniture/thrift shop that had a whole array of things for sale, from small, used toys to comic books and paperbacks and furniture big enough that you needed a truck to take it home. What I saw in the store was absolutely wonderful. The toys, some from yesteryear, cast off knickknacks and a rolltop desk that looked like it came from an old movie were all very interesting, but what was truly wonderful was the interaction I watched between a mother and her young daughter and son (we’ll call them Emma and Billy). They were about six and eight years old.

“Now, you each have 10 cents to buy something with,” she told them.  They began looking about a corner of the store that was full of little push toys, stuffed animals, storybooks and a seemingly endless cornucopia of everything a little kid could want.

Billy picked up a truck almost immediately. It was a beauty, but mom reminded him, “That’s 50 cents. You can’t buy that.” Disappointed, he put the truck down and continued to look. Meanwhile, sister was fascinated by a set of colorful stickers you could do almost anything with. The price, 10 cents. Perfect!

By now, Billy had found a package of baseball cards and a little pinball machine, each 10 cents. The price was right, but the dilemma was frustrating. I could see it on his face, but in a few moments the package of baseball cards was back on the shelf and he was running to mom with his purchase.

If you’re reading this, your children are likely older than Emma and Billy but however old they are, it’s never too early to start teaching them (and yourself, if necessary) about personal finance. Financial literacy enables you to make wise decisions about what to buy and what the consequences of your purchases are going forward. I suspect that when it comes time for mom to speak with Emma and Billy about post-secondary education, whether it’s college or some other choice, they’ll be able to speak to each other freely, acknowledging that the financial decisions they are considering mustn’t become a burden in the years ahead.

We will speak a great deal more about financial literacy in coming blogs, but to get you and your children started, you might want to take a look at Jump Start! Financial Smarts for Students (https://www.jumpstart.org) and Schwab MoneyWise – the Teaching Kids section (https://www.schwabmoneywise.com). These are sources of good information, but don’t stop here. There are other quality sources to consider.

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