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How Do I Teach My Child to Be Financially Responsible? Family Money Values.

Wondering how to raise a financially responsible child? Teach your child financial responsibility by establishing + modeling your family's money values.

Have you ever stayed up at night over the question of “how to teach my teenager financial responsibility” or rolled your eyes in anguish over how to teach your child financial responsibility?

family sitting down, father holding piggy bank, text overlay "how to pass on family money values"

A money education doesn't happen overnight.

It's sort of put together over the years, created from a combination of experiences with handling money, instruction + teachable money moments from others, and modeled behavior from adults and friends.

And teaching kids about money over the years doesn't guarantee that they'll turn into financially responsible and capable adults.

But I can tell you that there is ONE thing you can do right now to ensure that whatever your kid's money education looks like over the years, it will have a solid foundation: establishing your family's money values.

What I'm here to tell you today is by establishing your family's money values, you will create the perfect environment for raising a financially responsible child.

Values and Money

How do our values influence our behavior?

In Re-Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins says,

“We must remember that all decision-making comes down to values clarification.”

So, if being clear on our values is what’s behind our decision-making, and we have to make oooooohhhh…only about one gazillion money decisions in our lifetime, then can you see why it makes sense to clarify your money values?

But let’s take it further than that – we are, after all, wanting to shape our children’s money futures in positive ways.

Not only do you need to become clear about your own money values, but you also would be wise to create a set of Family Money Values that you can instill in your kiddos.

Doing so means that once they get to those money decision-making points in their own lives, it becomes a bit easier to choose the right thing.

Psst: The “right thing” for them will likely change as they age – you cannot control that. But you CAN control some of that inner dialogue that will happen as they choose. That’s why you want to make sure the inner dialogue has some really great information in it!

What are Your Money Values?

Values are what’s most important to you. And when you can clarify what those things are, then making decisions becomes much easier. That’s because you have actual values to measure each option against to see if it’s in line with what you want or find most important in life.

According to Tony Robbins, there are two types of values: ends and means.

End values include things like: caring, contribution, freedom, feeling like you’re making an impact, love, success, freedom, intimacy, security, adventure, power, growth, passion, comfort, health, etc.

Means values are “simply a way for you to trigger the emotional states you really desire.”

Your money values are means – they are one way (there are others) for you to get to the deeper, emotional values that you want in life, such as freedom, love, security, a feeling of impact, etc.

Think about it – we all know the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.” And this is totally true. However, there are ways that we can spend + manage our money in order to lead us towards the end values we are looking for, such as time freedom, raising a family, etc.

So, what are money values? My definition:

Money values = the rules and guiding lights you use in order to maximize your money so that it can support the life you want to live.

Let’s look at some examples of personal finance values and money values examples.

What are Some Financial Values? Examples of Personal Financial + Money Values

Let me give you some examples of money values to get you started identifying your own (steal ‘em if they speak to you):

  • Charitable giving/tithing
  • Saving a certain amount of money off the top of your earnings
  • Valuing people over things (Suze Orman)
  • Not stealing
  • Work ethic
  • Prioritizing purchasing experiences over things
  • Not wasting resources
  • You do/don’t “get what you paid for”
  • Financial Stewardship
  • Quality over quantity, even if it costs more because it’ll last longer
  • Delayed gratification to get a bigger reward/be able to afford more
  • Responsibility for oneself
  • Financial independence

Why You’d Want to Create Family Money Values

One thing about values is that they’re very personal. Each person has a different set of values.

And even within the same set of values, one person will prioritize certain values over another.

So, why would you want to create a set of family money values (if your kid might not end up valuing the same things you do, anyway)?

Because one of the factors affecting value formation is our parents and family's values.

As parents, we have the unique ability to imprint upon our children. Think about the family traditions you used to do as a child that you still do, even if you may not entirely know why.

I’m not saying we should brainwash our kids, but what I am suggesting is that you choose a set of family money values that you verbally share with them + regularly model for them so that they have some sort of money foundation to go back to when they need to make their own money decisions in the future.

Here's what Lauren Gallagher, PhD, school psychologist in Long Island, New York says about this in an article from Real Simple (June 2018):

“Being consistent with the language we use with our kids will help them respond intuitively to situations over time.”

It's sort of like learning algebra – they may not use algebra as adults, but just learning about it, and working through how to solve equations without knowing everything there is to know, primes them to make better decisions in the future.

As Tony Robbins says, “We need to realize that the direction of our lives is controlled by the magnetic pull of our values. They are the force in front of us, consistently leading us to make decisions that create the direction and ultimate destination of our lives.”

Make Your Financial Values List

You’ll want to come up with a list of family money values, and then not only communicate them with your family but also start to live them in ways that your child can see.

Answer some of these questions to help you define what those values are:

  • Do you value experiences over things?
  • Would you prefer to own a higher-quality item, or spend the least amount on something and put the rest in your savings account?
  • Do you value having loads of savings as security, or do you value having loads of protection in other ways (such as insurance)?
  • Do you value your time over making money, or making money over having more time? Do you believe in a third way?
  • Do you value saving towards the future (college, retirement)? Or, do you value living in the now, and know that the money will be there when you need it through grants/scholarships/etc.?
  • Do you value spending money in the present since you don’t know how long you’ll live so that you can live your best life now?
  • Is giving money something you value?
  • Do you value giving your time to others?
  • Are you open to taking financial risks, and how risky will you go?
  • Do you value discounts over paying full price?

Once you’ve got these down, I encourage you to create a Family Money Values poster and hang it up so everyone can see it.

As you go about your normal daily and weekly activities, don’t be afraid to use your newly clarified money values to explain why you’re making a decision while you’re actually doing the deciding so that your child can see them in action.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money,, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here or on LinkedIn.