I was lucky in that my parents taught me the value of money and instilled the importance of saving from an early age. Yes, I am Scottish with Scottish parents, so no surprise there. Now, though, there is a big movement to get basic money and finance learning into education system curricula in western countries. In the UK, this now sits between the citizenship and maths curricula. I have been told by American friends, however, that they may be taught Plato in schools but when they leave they have no idea how to balance a cheque book.
It is up for debate whether a child’s parents or the education system or even financial institutions should take the lead in imparting know-how, but I believe it is firmly at the feet of parents to make sure their child has enough life skills to cope when they set out on their own.
Recently, I was at a conference in Kuala Lumpur where the closing speaker was the head of a family office in Australia. He brought his 12-year-old daughter on stage and let her handle the Q&A session. She has been brought up knowing that she will be taking over the family office, so she was answering questions related to everything from balance sheets to the manufacturing unit cost pricing of a litre of milk. While this is on the extreme side, her parents are making sure that this girl has not only an education but also the business acumen she will need in the future.
Now I do not recommend you sit down in the evening and break down a cash flow analysis with your little one, but have a look back at your own life and where you struggled to understand things and where you do not want your child to go through the same difficulties. It can be as simple as talking to your children when you are doing things yourself. Looking online at your bank statement to make sure your salary has been paid correctly? Show them what you are doing and explain why. Set a child up with a piggy bank and let them choose a target or thing to save for. Again, this is just with little children, giving them the building blocks of financial planning: cash management, saving and target-setting.
When they get older, you can talk to your kids about different currencies, balancing your cheque book, the correct use and expense of credit cards, purchasing property, insurance and filing tax returns. Again, the best time to do this is when you are doing it yourself.
As you may have noticed, the big word is responsibility. If you do not take the responsibility to give your children the tools they need in life, do not complain when they are still living at home at the age of 35 because they have not been able to pay off their credit card debt!
Paul McLardie is a partner at Total Wealth Management. Contact him at