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How to teach your children about money at every age

Tips and activities to boost your kid’s financial knowledge.

By ATB Financial 27 February 2023 5 min read

Your children’s relationship with money starts with their earliest relationship—you as their parent or guardian.

While managing finances is an essential part of adult life, it’s not commonly taught in formal education. What is learned is usually done informally, as your children pick up on how you talk about, think about and use your money. 

You have an opportunity to intentionally shape your child’s financial perspective for the better, and perhaps assess your own view of money along the way. 

Your involvement can have a profound impact. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) conducted a worldwide survey to determine financial literacy among teenagers. The findings showed that teens who talk about finances with their parents, even just once a week, score 33 points higher in financial literacy compared to those who do not.


Teaching kids about money at every age

Just like teaching any new concept, it’s essential to talk to our children about money in ways they can best learn and understand. Here are some ideas to help you start the conversation and do some age appropriate learning activities with your children.


Early learning

Between the ages of three and five, kids can begin to learn the value of money.

Pre-schoolers can start to learn the value of a dollar. Try showing them coins and dollar bills, and get them to practice counting money. They can learn about earning money from doing small household chores or receiving cash as gifts, and how to save it for something they want to purchase in the future.

Start teaching budgeting basics by using three jars: one for saving, one for spending and one for donating. This activity will show them how to start managing money at an early age.

You can also do activities at home that will help them understand the concept of spending money. For example, you can create a pretend store with items that have price tags. Then, give your children some money to “spend” in the store. Or you could do a baking project, allowing your kids to purchase each ingredient so they understand that even simple things like flour and sugar cost money.

Banking terms to introduce include: spend, save, buy and sell.


Growing their understanding

Children between the ages of six and nine are capable of distinguishing between needs and wants.

At this age, kids can start to better understand the value of money and the difference between a need and a want.

You can help your child set a long-term savings goal. For example, they can contribute a portion of their allowance to save for a large purchase, like a new toy. Help them open a bank account, so they can deposit money into their savings to help them reach this goal. Periodically, help them check their bank balance, so they can know their progress and continue to feel motivated to save.

Banking terms to introduce include: bank, account and balance.

Team ATB tip:

"When we go on holidays with our kids we give them a budget of what they’re allowed to spend on extra goodies and souvenirs. We couldn't afford to buy them everything they wanted in sight, and for those that have kids, you know what I mean... kids want everything they touch. So even at an early age, it made them really think about what they’re buying and if that item was really worth it."

-Diana, ATB Financial

Gaining independence

Kids between the ages of ten and twelve want to start being more independent.

At this age, pre-teens can begin to learn the basics of budgeting. Budgeting includes understanding how much money they have coming in and how to account for what they spend.

If they already have their own bank account, you can review their transactions through online or mobile banking or a monthly statement. Looking at these transactions allows them to see how much they’re depositing and spending—and on what. This is also a great time to get them their own debit card.

You can also show them your family’s household budget. Seeing the budget can help them understand basic living costs like utilities, mortgage payments, insurance and other bills. Help your child create their own budget for the things they currently purchase.

Banking terms to introduce include: budget, debit card and statement.

Team ATB tip:

"When our daughters were little and would state, "I want X", I would ask them how they were going to earn the money to pay for it. We would then negotiate what chores they would have to perform to raise the funds. If it was a very large item like a school trip overseas, then I would meet them halfway. If they raised $1500, I would match their $1500. They eventually stopped saying "I want" and would state, "Mom, I have a proposal for you..." I knew with those fateful words they wanted something, but they also had worked out a strategy of how they were going to pay for the coveted item. They are great savers as adults."

- Christine, ATB Financial

Young adult territory

Technology is important for teens between thirteen to sixteen.

Teens might already have a job at this age or be looking to get one. You can help them understand more about their earnings by reviewing their pay stubs. Here, they can see what part of their earnings goes to employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and to any potential income taxes.

You can also help them set up long-term savings goals that are more substantial, like purchasing a car or saving for post-secondary education. After setting the goal, help them create a savings plan so they know what they have to do to reach it.

With contactless payments and digital payment options on the rise, this is a good time to explore options around different types of payment cards for online purchases or mobile pay opportunities. If that’s new to you as well, you can always learn together.

Your kids are old enough now to hear about your experiences with credit, debt and savings. Having an honest conversation about the tough lessons you’ve learned will help them understand the importance of proper money management. Also, these stories show your teens that managing money isn’t perfect (and neither are you), giving them permission to make their financial journey their own. 

Banking terms to introduce include: credit card, debt, mobile pay and taxes.


Preparing for their future

Budgeting for college or university is an important lesson for this age group.

As our teenagers grow up, it’s time to learn about the expenses they’ll soon have. These include living expenses, vehicle expenses and the cost of post-secondary education. If they plan on attending post-secondary, investigate the price of tuition, books and other costs together so they understand what they need to include in their budget.

Help them prepare a budget for their first year out of high school. Use this opportunity to explore their options. Does it make sense for them to live on campus or at home? Will they attend classes in-person or opt for online courses? 

Banking terms to introduce include: student loans, investments, stock market, credit score and the credit bureau.


Power possibility for your child’s financial future

Looking for more resources? Try our money counting worksheet or read our interactive story below! 


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