By Art Rainer, Crosswalk.com
In Proverbs, we find King Solomon pointing out a peculiar, little insect and the lessons we can learn from it:
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares provisions in summer, it gathers its food during harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8, CSB).
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:24-25, CSB).
The ant. King Solomon tells us that we should consider the ant when it comes to saving. And what can we learn about saving from this six-legged specimen? Well, we learn that saving is wise.
We learn that, in life, there are times of abundance and times of scarcity, and abundance gives us the opportunity to prepare for scarcity. And we learn that savings requires persistence. In other words, a little bit of money over a long period of time can lead to a lot of money. So, the ant teaches us quite a bit about savings.
Those who tend to do the best at saving money are habitual about the practice, meaning that saving money has simply become a part of their lives, they don’t even think much about it. They are very ant-like when it comes to savings.
When their paycheck hits, they give, then save, then live on whatever is left. As parents, we know that the sooner we can help our children develop good, biblical money habits, the more likely they are to carry those practices with them into adulthood. It’s Proverbs 22:6—"Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it” (CSB).
But how can a parent teach this biblical principle of saving for the future to their child? Certainly, it seems like teaching your child to save is destined to result in significant complaining, whining, and resistance, not to mention your child’s reaction. So how does a parent get their child actually excited about saving money? Try these four simple steps:
1. Teach them God’s formula for money: Give, Save, Live.
God has woven teachings on money throughout the Bible. There are over 2,000 verses on money, possessions, and stewardship. Needless to say, God has spoken in a significant way on this topic. He has not hidden this desire for what our relationship with money should look like. And as we study Scripture, we find an easy-to-follow, sequential formula emerges—Give generously, save wisely, and live appropriately (Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 21:20, 1 Timothy 6:17). Giving is our priority, followed by saving, and then living on what’s left.
While the formula is easy to follow, it’s often difficult to do, even for adults. And what about kids? One of the fun ways you can teach your kids the Give-Save-Live formula is to, first, have them read The Secret Slide Money Club series. The formula is found throughout the books.
Next, provide your child with three, clear jars. If your child has read the book, he or she will likely call them “capsules.” In our house, we use plastic ones that resemble peanut butter jars. On the first capsule, write “GIVE.” On the second capsule, write “SAVE.” And on the third capsule, write “LIVE.”
Once you have shown them these capsules, explain that every time they receive money, they are going to place some of it in the GIVE capsule, then the SAVE capsule, and finally, the LIVE capsule. The money in the GIVE capsule will go to church every week, and they can use the rest later. Tell your child that it will be fun watching the jars fill up. Of course, you are not done, but only started.
2. Help them identify a savings goal.
Why do you personally save money? Do you save to have three to six months set aside for an emergency? Do you save to have enough during your retirement years? Do you save because you need a car, or do you save because you don’t want your child to have student loan debt in college? All of these are good motivations for setting aside money. Motivations drive your desire to save. And this will be true for your child as well. Motivation matters.
So how do you motivate your child to save? Children need a desirable and attainable goal. Let’s first consider the desirability of their savings goal.
Having your young kids save for college isn’t likely a desirable goal for them. Having your six-year old set aside money for an emergency fund isn’t likely a desirable goal for them. So how do you identify a desirable goal? You ask them. What bigger item do they want? What do they desire? The goal needs to be a stretch for them, something that cannot be attained with a week or two, something for which they must save.
Likely, the saving goal is attached a purchase. And this is okay. Remember, the goal is merely a tool to train and educate child on savings.
Then, secondly, the goal must be attainable. Granted, you don’t want your child reaching the goal within a week. The brevity does not teach them what it means to save. At the same time, you do not a goal that they will not reach for a year. They will grow weary of saving. Saving will become a burden to them. I recommend a goal that can be reached anywhere from one to six months. Attainable goals are motivational goals.
So, help your child identify a savings goal. Make sure the goal is desirable and attainable. And then give them the opportunity to reach the goal.
3. Give them opportunities to make money.
If you and your child have identified a desirable and attainable goal, you need to provide an opportunity to chase the goal, to see the money in their "SAVE" capsule grow, either more or less aggressively. One of the ways we allow our kids to pursue their savings goal is through chores. We don’t give our kids allowances, meaning we don’t provide money without work. They are able to do age-appropriate chores around the house in order to earn money.
One of the benefits of work-based earnings (besides a cleaner house) is the appreciation that comes from reaching a hard-earned goal. You probably see this in your own life. You have a greater appreciation for those things that required hard work to obtain.
And it is likely that when your child reaches his or her goal, they have a greater appreciation for that video game, card collection, doll, or whatever desirable and attainable goal they set. So, give them the opportunity to make money. Make sure that if they work harder and do more, their earnings reflect the effort. Tie their money to their effort and you will likely see greater appreciation.
4. Celebrate their success.
They have worked hard. They have been patient. They have been disciplined. And they finally reached their savings goal. What should you do? Celebrate their success! Show your excitement and approval. Of course, take them to purchase that video game, card collection, or doll. And make the trip to the store a time of celebration and reflection. Reiterate the reason they are able to make the purchase, discuss their savings story—the goal, the work, the patience, the discipline, and the success.
In Scripture, we learn that saving for the future is wise. As parents of young children, we have a tremendous opportunity to instill in our kids an understanding of this wise practice. And by following these four simple steps, you can help your child understand that saving money isn’t always easy or immediate, but it is certainly worth the effort.
Art Rainer is a vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. He writes widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge and the recently released Secret Slide Money Club series for kids.
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