Keeping tabs on your personal finances used to be so onerous. Remember balancing a checkbook by hand? And trying to keep tabs on your credit card back when you only got a monthly statement in the mail?
It’s not like these are skills you learned in school. If you were lucky, you had someone like my dad, who sat down and taught me how to spend and save responsibly. If not, you learned through stressful trial and disastrous error.
Fortunately, it’s now much easier to keep a real-time picture of bank accounts and credit card balances, especially if you use a digital wallet. Not only that, but you can actually use a digital wallet to teach your kids the financial literacy they need to have in order to avoid their parents’ mistakes.
Why Digital Wallets Make Effective Teaching Tools
Digital wallets can be a collaborative tool you share with your kids to guide them toward financial independence. They probably already have smartphones, so there’s a digital wallet ready at their fingertips. Their comfort using apps makes digital wallets a familiar way to introduce financial tools that they can access quickly and keep with them at all times.
Many digital wallets track spending by month or category, painting a picture of what is actually happening with money that passes through your accounts. That tracking is another feature that makes digital wallets such a useful teaching tool: The visual imagery is more powerful than any spreadsheet or a bank account ledger for monitoring income and spending.
Digital wallets can also give children practice with making financial decisions in a safe, controlled environment. Children can be listed as authorized users on their parents’ accounts and make their spending choices — choices that must be first be validated by a parent. This is especially useful when your kids are out without you: for example, hanging out with friends at the mall while you’re at the office. If your kid wants to make a purchase, you’ll receive a request to allow the payment, which you can approve or deny in real time. If you refuse the payment, you can shoot your kid a brief note explaining why. It’s remote teaching at its finest.
How to Grow Kids’ Interest in Finances
Ready to get your kids’ financial educations started using a digital wallet? Start with these steps that will promote healthy personal finance habits to grow on:
1. Get started early. Begin when your child is young, using a simple app. Choosing an app to use can be part of the learning experience: You can narrow down the options to a handful of apps with features you like and then let your child pick the one you’ll use together.
2. Teach the basics. Financial literacy really begins when a child learns that money is for saving, not just for spending. Help your kids properly set up accounts for savings, discretionary spending, and general expenses, and discuss what percentage of each deposit should go into each of their designated accounts. Many digital wallets have a category that shows you what you’ve retained month after month.
3. Take baby steps. While it’s important to control the purse strings, especially at the beginning, you can give your children more freedom as they gain responsibility. To make those transitions seamless, look for wallets with flexible parental controls. As kids become better at managing their own finances, it’s nice to be able to ease them slowly into more responsibility by unlocking new permissions.
My grandfather used to say that it’s just as easy to keep the gas tank closer to full than to empty; it’s just a matter of which line you choose to watch. With digital wallets, you can show your kids that it’s far more satisfying to watch savings grow than it is to deplete their resources, teaching them healthy financial habits early and well.