Thanks to a determined and growing effort by financial institutions, nonprofit educators and money management professionals, many of today's parents are getting the message that teaching children basic money management skills is, arguably, as important as teaching them their ABCs.
While practical financial skills are indeed essential, teaching kids to, say, balance a checkbook or read a mutual fund prospectus is not enough to prepare them for a lifetime of personal and financial success. It's strong, grounded values that are the real building blocks of a healthy relationship with money, and the key to seeing what is truly important in life.
Before they can teach values to their kids, parents must identify their own values first. A strong work ethic, personal responsibility, self-discipline, patience, empathy, thrift, and charity are examples of the kinds of values that might appear on the list.
Values are best taught through a combination of verbal and nonverbal communication. In other words, tell kids out loud why you make the money choices you do, and model the kind of behavior you want them to learn. Of course, you want to make sure your actions are consistent with your stated values and beliefs--something that is not always as easy as it sounds, especially if you are struggling with money issues of your own. Still, the result of your efforts--an unspoiled child who grows up to be an honest, empathetic, self-reliant adult--will be well worth the work.