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How to teach your kids about money (or anything else, for that matter).

A lot of folks I know (myself included) have either been through so much therapy or taken so many personal growth seminars that they’re hyper-focused on not screwing up their kids.

And while I think that every soul who comes into this world has their own karma and that we’re not solely responsible for our children’s personal experiences of being human, it’s nonetheless probably a good idea to be aware of what we’re teaching them. It’s our job to do the very best we can, that’s for sure.

Along these lines, one of the most common questions I get asked is how to teach kids about money in a way that’s sane and supportive.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak for an amazing organization based out of Boston called Invest In Girls. They teach high school girls about money. The organization even made up their own word for financial literacy that I love. They call it speaking “Finglish,” as in “Financial English.”

As I made the two-hour trip down to Boston from Portland I pondered what I could teach these girls. I thought about myself at age 16 and what I most needed to hear at that time. I thought about the messages about money that our culture gives us. I thought about what money means to a teenage girl.

When I’m asked how to teach kids about money, I always preface my answer by saying that I’m not yet a parent so this answer may change after living it for a while.

But, what I do know is this:

twitter_standingModeling is everything.

We all know that people will do what we do, not what we tell them to do. Mama birds don’t get books on how to fly and sit with their chicks in the nest, going over how to do it. Nope. They just spread their wings and go, and eventually their babies follow.

I have no idea what the women and girls I spoke with last Thursday got out of our time together.

But I told them my own story of getting into (and out of) debt. I told them that in my early twenties I spent a lot of money that I didn’t have because I wanted my life to look perfect and I wanted to look like I had it all together. I gave them some exercises to do to tap into trusting their intrinsic worth as women.

And, most important of all, I showed up as a woman on the path to greater financial consciousness, greater freedom, and greater love.

Studies show that, ultimately, what you say will only account for 10 percent of what people take away from an interaction with you. The rest is made up of your tone of voice, your body language, and other non-verbal cues.

So, when it comes to teaching your kids (or anyone else) about money (or any other subject, for that matter):

twitter_standingIt matters far less what you say than what you do. 

The answer, then, is that if you want to teach your kids about money, it’s wise to learn about money and then exhibit healthy financial behavior yourself.

Your behavior will leave an indelible impression. Your words are easily washed away.

Want more?

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 1.36.32 PMIf you want to ramp up your own financial health to become a better role model for your kids and your community, grab the recording of the free webinar I taught earlier this week: Financial Renewal: How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Money Mistakes People Make.


Money Love Course Kate Northrup

And if you’re ready for an even deeper dive into healing your relationship with money and creating more abundance than you ever thought possible, check out The Money Love Course.

This 4-part course in making, growing, giving, and receiving more value will give you a super solid foundation to model healthy, sane, supportive behavior around your money.

It’s good for both your financial future and your kids’.


Over to you:

How do you teach your kids about money? What are your most effective strategies? How have you found modeling to be effective in your life, either in learning from watching someone else or in teaching others?

I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below!


  • I had scrupulous instruction with my mom on money matters when I was young, earning an allowance. I am not naturally as detailed about where my money goes now as we were then, but something I found that helped me was to learn the value system of a person. I wanted to be financially sound, but there were certain needs I had (that I didn’t realize I had) that kept drawing money out of me (such as crystals, tarot decks, etc). Once my mom and I went over my bank statement and realized where a lot of my money was going (not vastly huge sums, but enough to make a difference), I was able to adjust a behavior pattern to have more of a nest egg and stop spending money on things I didn’t mean to buy.

    I think people have certain weak spots, and what’s been helpful for me to figure out what I value. I’m much less likely to buy a cd (unless it’s from a used bookstore) than to buy a bottle of flower essences.

  • My parents’ actions most definitely did not match their words and I took on quite a few of their bad habits as my own. Thanks to your book I feel I’m lightyears more aware and have taken huge strides toward my own financial freedom. Thank you!!

    But as for my future kids, I think honesty is huge and speaking as you have suggested about money in a way that is about exchanging value. I work with kids in many other capacities and you are so right- modeling is everything. Kids see and notice and learn everything much younger than people think. The sooner you display positive and valuable language and actions with and around them, the more likely they are going to soak it all in. It all starts with you. xoxo

  • I watched this linked in youtube episode on the weekend,d.dG

    I confess I have left the serious business of looking after money until very late. I am learning fast and teaching my kids along the way. Separating needs and wants is the biggest challenge and the discipline to stick to the program – whatever the goal. My daughter is now studying bio-medicine and I had a chat with her last night about whether her goal to go on a holiday is more important than having a look at the student loan she is embarking upon.

    Time out to refocus is important to me as with staying on track. I don’t spend time watching TV much these days – I use the time to glean what useful information I can from the experts.

    Kate I love the freshness and vitality of your emails and whilst I am trying to limit the amount of emails coming into my inbox everyday – I appreciate the effort that goes into your work.

  • The thing about kids and money is that kids possess and unbelievable carefree quality that is admirable.

    I think a lot of us adults could learn from them to play and enjoy life and trust that the good things in life are already infront of them.

    Maybe the most important financial lesson we give our kids is a mindset focused on abundance and love.

    Have a great day and many blessings.

  • Such a great point! Although I don’t have children just yet, I always keep in mind how I want to hone and tweak my habits so that I can instill new skills in my children down the road. If I want confident, successful children – I have to be that person first! Thanks again! xo


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