Fun, Easy Ways to Teach Your Children About Money - Interview

shannon ryanToday I have a fun and very interesting interview to share with you about children and money.

My guest is Shannon Ryan, author of The Heavy Purse. Shannon is a wonderful person that I met via Twitter last fall and we have been having fun chatting and slowly getting to know one another.  I know many people in the PF community write about children and money and the importance of teaching children about money, so I thought that many of you would enjoy learning more about Shannon and the system that she has developed around fun ways to teach your children about money.

Thanks very much for joining me today Shannon!

Thank you Sicorra.

Can you please share a bit about your background and the work that you do?

I am a Certified Financial Advisor, and I have helped individuals, families and small business make informed financial decisions for over 20 years.

At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to become a Financial Advisor?

My interest in people and the relationship they form with money began at a very early age. 

My father started his “money lessons” with me when I was 13. He taught me about the emotional side of money and how it drove people’s financial decisions. He allowed me to make money mistakes when I was young and the consequences were small. I knew I would follow in his footsteps as a Surgeon or become a Financial Advisor.

You say in one of your blog posts that during your time as a Financial Advisor you have worked with people that you thought would be happy with their financial situation, but were not, and people that had very little income, but were very happy. Why do you think the people that had less income were actually happier in many cases?

They aligned their financial decisions with their values.  You do not have to be wealthy to live a rich life. People get so caught up in buying things that they forget to slow down and truly think about what they want their money to do for them – what would make them the happiest. My father taught me to use my money in alignment with my values, rather than my emotions.

Do you believe that the choices we make on how to manage our money as adults is a result of how we witnessed money being managed within our family, either by our parents, grandparents, or extended family members, when we were kids?

I believe as early as age 3, before we even know the value of money, we start forming opinions around it. We observe our parents relationship with money, and often times money hang-ups are passed generation from generation. My passion for financial literacy was born out of witnessing the lasting effects of these hang-ups, as I work with adults decades later.

You’ve recently written and published a fun book titled The Heavy Purse. What prompted you to write it?

the heavy purseThe Heavy Purse book series was written for more than 10 years – before I even had children! Given the recent challenges in the economy around the world, I felt it was the appropriate time to launch the picture books, blog and workbooks to help parents teach their children to have a healthy attitude towards money.

How does The Heavy Purse help parents teach their children about money?

The book, The Heavy Purse, just starts the conversation. Through the story of “magical coins” children learn that they can use their coins to bring joy to themselves and others. It prompts kids to start thinking about Savings goals, Sharing with others, and Spending only on what makes them the happiest.

The workbooks I have created are tools for parents to teach the basic principles in stages.

My blog and website are designed to support parents as they increase their children’s financial literacy.

Teaching children how to share their money is a point that caught my attention. How do most parents react to that? Are they happy to teach their children how and when it is appropriate to share their money?

Sharing or being philanthropic with our money is tough, even for adults.

Overall, the response has been very positive. Many parents would like to be in the position to give, but cannot based on financial decisions they have made, such as living above their means.

I tell them to start small and involve their children. Donate treats to a local animal shelter, if your children love animals. Once parents and children get in the habit of sharing and experience how good it feels to share, sharing becomes something the family looks forward to doing year-after-year.

Parents have also told me they do not know how to start the conversation around sharing and money overall. We have developed workbooks to help parents teach their children how to handle money.

If we teach our children early, how rich sharing makes their lives, maybe they will not over extend themselves and budget for giving. In the end, a charitable gift is a form of love, caring for someone outside of yourself.  By teaching your children to share, you are bringing more love into their lives.

Is it easy to teach children how to manage their money?

It is not complicated, but it is a long-term, ongoing endeavour.

Anything we teach our children, such as good manners, study habits or personal hygiene, takes constant focus. You cannot tell a 3 year old to say “please” and expect they will remember every time.

We have to demonstrate the behaviour and continue to remind them.  Teaching your kids about money is the same. Not hard, but needs to be consistent in all situations. Parents have to model good financial behaviour too.

Where I find most parents struggle is that they don’t have the curriculum to teach their children about money, which is why I developed my new workbooks. Each workbook – based on age or level of expertise, contains five targeted lessons to help kids build a positive relationship with money.

Meet Shannon through her videos - Check it out!

Is there a specific age group that is typically more difficult than others when it comes to spending, saving and sharing their money?

The older the child is the more difficult it is to overcome habits already formed, especially the ones you demonstrated. My advice is to start early, be a good role model and discuss money often.  Money can no longer be a taboo subject. I believe your children start to “learn” about money as early as 3 years old by watching you.

What advice do you offer for parents with children that are always asking for more money, in particular, in response to children that get really frustrated and upset when the answer is no?

As a Mom, I hate to be the bad guy and always tell my daughters “no”.  But life is about choices and the earlier we teach children this, the less we will have to say no.

My husband and I started by making sure our girls knew the family goals for the year.

When we were in a store and they started with the “I wants”, I would look at the item and acknowledge how great it was.  I would then remind them of our goal, such as a trip to Hawaii and let them know much I was looking forward to the trip with them.

I would then ask them if the toy was worth working for and saving for themselves. Most of the time, the answer was “no”.

When they responded with a “yes”, they would incorporate the item into their goals. Often I find the “I want” item fades in importance and I never had to say no.

Now, at 7 and 9 years old, the “I Wants” come in the form of goals and asking me how they can “earn” the money.

If your children are 12 years or older, you may want to consider a monthly budget for entertainment, clothing, dining out, etc.  When it is gone, it is gone.  They will quickly learn that buying something on a whim or without planning can limit their choices for the rest of the month. The notion of making good financial decisions and choices is learned quickly.

As long as you, the parent, stick to the plan. :-)

Do you think that children should be encouraged to save for their university education, or expect their parents to pay for it, or rely on student loans as many do?

I believe this is a family-by-family choice, and there is not a right answer for all.  I do believe that students should carefully consider their choice of universities and how much debt they take on.

Often I have met with kids right out of college with 100-300k in debt and a degree/graduate degree in a field that it will take 10- 20 years to repay the money. Debt, of any kind, weighs on our minds and limits our choices.

At what age would you suggest most people should start to work with a financial advisor? Please explain.

I think that as soon as someone starts to earn money (usually right out of college) they should sit down with a financial advisor to start to build a healthy financial foundation.  I meet with my clients’ children on a regular basis to get them started in the right direction.

Generally speaking, by the time someone is in their early 30’s they are making enough financial decisions every year that a financial advisor would be beneficial.

Again, Shannon, thank you very much! 


    • Holly@ClubThrifty

      Holly@ClubThrifty 01/23/2013 5:21 a.m. #

      Sounds like a smart lady! I agree it's important to teach our kids about money. I am starting to now with my 3 year old. She understands about giving and she understands when something "isn't in the budget." (I try not to say things like we can't afford it because it's not true)

      • Tackling Our Debt

        Tackling Our Debt 01/23/2013 3:38 p.m. #

        Excellent job Holly! I think it is important to talk budget versus can't afford it. That way kids don't grow up thinking Mom and Dad are struggling with money either, like what happens in some households.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:22 p.m. #

        Thanks Holly! It makes me so pleased that you avoid telling your daughter "we can't afford it". In many cases - like yours - it's not true. You can afford it; they just don't need another toy. But little kids, in particular, can be so literal that you inadvertently scare them. You're showing your daughter that money is about choices and you're honoring you budget. Love it!

    • John S @ Frugal Rules

      John S @ Frugal Rules 01/23/2013 5:52 a.m. #

      "Anything we teach our children, such as good manners, study habits or personal hygiene, takes constant focus. You cannot tell a 3 year old to say “please” and expect they will remember every time." Being a father of three little ones I could not agree more. It takes time and effort to begin to develop these habits in children. This is especially true in teaching them the values of money. We have started to do this with our 5 & 3 year old kids and it's fun to see them at a very basic level understand money. Hopefully, those lessons will result in a good financial baseline that they take through life. Thanks for the great interview Shannon!

      • Tackling Our Debt

        Tackling Our Debt 01/23/2013 3:40 p.m. #

        Thanks John! It is important to keep it fun. Fun habits are alot easier to continue to follow through on, rather than when a parent says you must do this and that and then the kids grow up and rebel because they felt forced to do something.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:24 p.m. #

        Thanks John! It definitely takes effort and commitment to teach your children good money habits, but they are so worth it! Your children will thank you and carry forward their learnings.

    • RichUncle EL

      RichUncle EL 01/23/2013 7:43 a.m. #

      I agree that children have to learn early how to manage money. I already started teaching mine how it's great to save and give within your means.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:40 p.m. #

        Good to hear!

      • shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:25 p.m. #

        Love it! It's great you started early, particularly with sharing. Some parents overlook sharing, but I think it's just as important for kids to learn the value of sharing.

    • Grayson @ Debt Roundup

      Grayson @ Debt Roundup 01/23/2013 9:01 a.m. #

      I think this is a great interview Sicorra. I plan on teaching my son early about money and how to manage it.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:41 p.m. #

        Thanks Grayson! I'm sure you will enjoy it when the time comes.

    • Pauline

      Pauline 01/23/2013 9:02 a.m. #

      Nice interview! I agree that it is never too early to teach kids the value of money. I don't remember when I first started valuing it but I remember saving my allowance for bigger treats, and my parents pointing out our luck to have holidays and tennis lessons, and simpler things like school supplies.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:45 p.m. #

        For sure, everyone teaches financial responsibility in different ways, as in your house they explained to you how fortunate you were so that you didn't take anything for granted. Thanks Pauline!

      • shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:27 p.m. #

        Sounds like your parents put you on the right path to handle and appreciate money. Money is such a gift when we appreciate all the things it does for us.

    • Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy

      Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy 01/23/2013 10:37 a.m. #

      My child is going to have strong financial values strongly presented to her from very early on in the hope that she will be dissuaded from bumbling into similar financial pitfalls that Mommy has. And I have so much love for this interview.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:46 p.m. #

        Thanks! Your daughter will definitely benefit from all of the financial skills that she will learn from you as she grows up.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:29 p.m. #

        I loved doing the interview with Sicorra and I'm so glad you found it valuable! It sounds like you're going to be a good financial role model to your daughter.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/23/2013 11:26 a.m. #

      Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Tackling Our Debt, Sicorra. I am very honored. I hope your readers enjoy the article! :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:47 p.m. #

        Thank you Shannon! I am the one that is honored to be able to host your interview. It turned out excellent!!

    • krantcents

      krantcents 01/23/2013 1:03 p.m. #

      Since my children are successful adults, I asked them what we did, if anything to help them achieve this. I was a little surprised to learn they watched what we did or how we handled problems. So all the lessons of personal finance is meaningless if you do not reinforce it through responsible behavior.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:49 p.m. #

        Exactly!! Children observe and absorb everything they see, whether you think they do or not, and leading by example is extremely important.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:32 p.m. #

        It's funny all the things our children observe us doing without us even realizing what we're teaching them. Okay, sometimes it is a little scary too! It sounds like you must have been great role models for them. But yes, words are meaningless if you don't follow-up with matching behavior.

    • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

      Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 01/23/2013 1:08 p.m. #

      Great interview Sicorra! I know that carry money hang-ups from my parents that I have to work at overcoming. Something I think few of us realize that we carry forward and pass along to future generations. Hopefully we can break the cycle!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 3:52 p.m. #

        I think sometimes parents are very conscience of what they are teaching, as per Shannon's examples and some are not. At the same time many parents never teach their children manners or many other necessary life skills. Thanks for checking in Tanya!

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:33 p.m. #

        Parents pass along good and bad lessons. It takes time to figure out which lessons we hold and which ones we let go. Just another reminder to me that parents need to open with their kids about money because everyone handles it.

    • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

      Kim@Eyesonthedollar 01/23/2013 6:57 p.m. #

      Great interview. I am trying to teach my five year old about money. If she wants something, I try to tell her that if we spend our money on something we don't need then we won't have it if we want to go on a trip or do something bigger. I don't know how much sinks in, but hopefully I won't give her a complex.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 7:59 p.m. #

        Thanks Kim! As Shannon talked about, it sounds like you need to stick to just keep repeating yourself everytime it comes up and one day she will surprise you.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:35 p.m. #

        You're on the right path, Kim. It's hard at first but it gets easier. And it is sinking in, even if you can't see it yet. I find when I can redirect my daughters to what they are getting - our family vacation - then lose interest quickly in whatever toy just caught their eye.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

      Laurie @thefrugalfarmer 01/23/2013 7:30 p.m. #

      This is the most thorough and educational post I've seen in some time on teaching children finances, thank you for that! I love the part about going over the family's yearly financial goals with the kids. We encourage our 4 kids to earn their own money for their "I wants" and it works out very well. They simply know that unless it's a birthday or Christmas, if they want a new toy, etc., they're going to have to find a way to earn it, and then they set to work. I'm hoping that by teaching them early about financial responsibility, they'll avoid the finance mistakes we have made in the past. Thanks for the great post!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 8:02 p.m. #

        I am really glad you enjoyed it Laurie! Thank you! Sounds like you have a great system in place for your children. I like that you encourage them to work for it, doing something, anything. I've seen so many kids that are 18 or 19 and haven't even had their first job yet.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:40 p.m. #

        I'm so glad you find the post valuable, Laurie. Sicorra had some great questions for me. I love that your kids know they have to "earn" their money (my girls do too). So many parents just hand money to their children who are in for shock when nobody hands them money (besides credit card companies) as adults. You are definitely teaching them financial responsibility and putting them on the road to financial success.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 01/23/2013 7:31 p.m. #

      This was a great interview. I agree it's important we start teaching our kids at an early age. Out of all my kids, my youngest daughter is the one with the most money sense. She saves her money and makes smart purchases. The one that's more free with his money is Adrian. When he has money, it's burning a hole in his pocket and he just has to spend it.

      I'm going to share Shannon's site with my daughter so she can start teaching my grandson about money. Heck, we can all use a lesson in money-management :)

      Thanks for sharing the interview, great questions and answers ladies! Take care you two :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/23/2013 8:06 p.m. #

        Thanks very much! It is interesting how for some kids saving just comes naturally. It is fun to watch. I am sure Shannon's lessons will help out your daughter and grandson too (maybe after he takes a few more steps).

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 10:29 a.m. #

        Thanks Cori! It's so interesting to see how children differ with their money habits! You take care too.

    • Marissa @thirtysixmonths

      Marissa @thirtysixmonths 01/23/2013 11:27 p.m. #

      Smart lady. Although I learned my money lessons a bit late in life, I'm happy to say that my god son is a whiz already at the age of 8.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/24/2013 9:52 a.m. #

        It is cool how some kids are just born to be good money managers.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:41 p.m. #

        Thanks! It's fantastic that you're godson is already financially savvy!

    • Mindy

      Mindy 01/24/2013 2:47 a.m. #

      I have to say that my money habits came from my parents. Unfortunately, they have bad money habits and they don't track their expenses. Hence they hardly make both ends meet. Now that I'm an adult I often find myself getting into similar habits. Right now, I'm try my best to kick the old money habits out and develop good ones.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 01/24/2013 9:53 a.m. #

        It can definitely be a struggle but well worth it in the end.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 01/24/2013 3:44 p.m. #

        It's a hard cycle to break, but absolutely doable. It just takes time and effort. To me having goals and a budget are key. Some people dislike them, but I think if you truly want to be financially free - you need them. Some find budgets restricting, but I find them freeing. Now I know exactly where my money goes and can make adjustments.

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