by Christopher A. Straub, Henley & Straub LLP –
I delivered the local paper in North Saanich as a kid. My bike was equipped with a pair of very stylish blue-and-yellow saddle bags. I remember taking my monthly $30 paycheque to the bank to deposit it into my account, and the satisfaction of getting my bankbook updated. In my monthly trips to the bank, I also often deposited a roll of coins and any other money I had saved that month from odd jobs and my small allowance.
Nowadays, everything is at your fingertips in our virtual world. Banks don’t offer bankbooks for kids. Most people pay for everyday items with credit and debit cards. There are very few opportunities for children to watch their parents hand over hard-earned cash, and hear a cashier count out the change. They see a tap, hear a beep, and just like that you’ve got groceries.
Financial literacy in its simplest form is the ability to understand how much money you have, and the things that you can do with it. What is the best way to teach financial literacy in a time where kids perceive a little plastic card as an unlimited money fountain? This is a question I suspect many parents struggle with. It starts with open conversations.
I encourage everyone to initiate more discussions about finances, and not just with kids. Speak with your partners, parents and grandkids – not about how much is in their bank account, but about how much things cost, how interest rates work, and ideas on how to monitor assets and help them grow. It is an awkward topic for some folks, but good management of personal finances is one of the most valuable things anyone can learn. It is good for kids to know that it would take them more than a whole day’s work to pay for one dinner at White Spot for their family. It is good for teens to know that their new “free” cell phone isn’t free at all and is really just the phone company locking them into a longer, more expensive term. It is good for college students to know that credit card companies will throw credit at them, and that they make their money when students can only make the minimum payment. And it is good for parents and grandparents to understand what opportunities may be available at various stages of their lives, even opportunities as novel as cryptocurrency.
Regardless of changes to the way we interact with our money – whether we’re writing cheques, sending e-transfers, buying crypto or bringing our rolls of coins to the bank – we will still rely on basic financial knowledge to guard our assets. Next time your family is sitting down to dinner or you are having a Zoom call with your parents across the country, don’t be afraid to talk about money – and opportunities!