Since 1980, the U.S. has seen an increase in bankruptcy filings of 320 percent and the average American family has over $4,000 in credit card debt. Yeah, we need to do a better job teaching our kids about money.
The Bible tells us to be good stewards of what God gives us, including money. It also tells us to stay out of debt, not to care deeply about material goods and money, and to freely give what we have. As Christian parents, how do we teach our children these things in a nation that's billions of dollars in debt, where many seem to love money more than anything else, and where giving is often considered something necessary only for "the other guy"?
One way to begin is by giving your child a piggy bank. Although any piggy bank is better than none, I like The Money Savvy Pig (pictured above). This simple but clever bank has separate coin holes for saving, spending, charity, and investing. The money for each of these separate "accounts" is accessible through it's own hole, found in the pig's legs. I do wish that instead of "investing" it had a "tithing" section - not that I'm against investing, but for smaller kids, at least, the difference between investing and saving is a bit subtle.
Another alternative is the ABC bank. This isn't pig-shaped, which might be a drawback if your kids are young, and it isn't as comprehensive, which is a drawback if your kids are older. However, it does encourage saving and charity.
Finally, you could just set up a few clear glass or plastic jars. Have your child make sticker-signs for each: Spend, Save, Charity, Tithe. Simple as can be.
Of course, no bank will alone do the job. We need to explain to our kids why we need to save and give away - repeatedly. And (the hardest part of all, perhaps) we have to let them see us modeling the behavior we hope to instill in them.
It's also important to begin early. Although most experts suggest age five as a good time to begin learning about money, many four year olds show an interest in coins. Embrace that interest and set up a piggy bank. And while you teach the basics of coin and money types, give your child small jobs to do around the house so they can earn something to put in their bank. These jobs should be above and beyond what you normally expect them to do around the house, and you needn't give large sums of money. For a four year old, for example, earning just five or ten cents is a thrill. It is only through practice children can learn good stewardship with money.