This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2.

My husband and I live in different time vortexes. I live in the near future. More like the Jetson’s.  My husband grudgingly lives in the 1950’s. I think he would be happier in the Flintstones era.  This difference rarely effects our marriage as we care very little about the other’s passions.

One of Andy’s clients shared a brilliant money idea. Their kids have fake checks, keep a register for their savings, writing checks to the parents for account withdraws. Andy loved this, since it teaches kids to see money actually being spent, and how to write a check.

But I wonder whether when my kids are older, will there even be checks? I personally haven’t used a check since 2004. I do not use a check register since it did not stop me from bouncing checks. I have dyslexia, so doing math did not guarantee I was keeping the correct amount in my register.

So instead, I check my bank account daily to make sure that where I went and spent yesterday is showing up today. The computer does the math. I’ve stopped bouncing checks. In fact, I stopped reconciling my account each month. There is no need when the computer does the job for me.

I am 33 years old, and I do mean old. I don’t keep up with technology like my kids do. They can do things with Minecraft that I’m not sure are legal. I sit down to the computer to discover they have done things I have no clue how to change. Like changing the keyboard to German.

There is no need to teach the kids an old system. Andy disagrees and points to a mysterious $77 transaction. I told him I did not spend it. I asked if he did. He cannot remember and says this is why we need a register, so we could know. I told him if he was that worried I would simply stop payment on the check. He said forget it.

It does not matter if we each think one way is better than the other. The fact is, technology has rapidly changed our society to the point that even the some of the Amish use computers. 

Our problem is not whether to write checks with or without a register, it’s that Andy and I never talk about money. We just hope for the best. The kids need to learn how to communicate delicate issues.

And this is a microcosm of the whole problem with our schooling; the issue with education is not how to teach the kids– the tools are not the point. The issue is what to teach the kids, because that stays with the kids long after the tools have changed.

7 replies
  1. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    i don’t actually think you need to teach them any of this. They will learn it all on their own. For Andy, even if the kids never saw a checkbook or register in their childhood life, they could still write a check when older. It’s not hard. And deciding what to teach them? Well, that is totally natural and comes from who you are — your values and ideas. Whether we like it or not, they learn by example, from seeing us do things and by the way we act. We don’t actually have control over what they learn, we are who we are and so are they.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen says:

      I totally disagree that kids do not need education in this. True, the physical act of writing a check is not a challenge, and kids who are 5 now may never need to even do it. But understanding how to budget and value money is a seemingly abstract concept, and in a lot of relationships, too taboo or complicated to really nail down. Kids who do not learn to talk about money or other sensitive topics with their parents, partners, or peers in all likelihood will “figure it out” by getting into huge trouble with credit cards, debt, or spending when they turn 18 and head out on their own. Also, it is important that they learn they can communicate and ask about these things, without shame, before or after they make mistakes financially to avoid compounding their problems down the road.

      This kind of thing affects your whole life. My husband and I come from families with drastically different attitudes toward this type of discussion. As (at least partially) a result, I spent my late 20s digging myself out of the holes I’d created by “figuring it out” on my own from 18-25, while my husband was building savings. Now, he’s planning for retirement and focused on where to wisely invest, and I’m just beginning to gain a foothold in my savings account.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Financial education is a no brainer. Part of raising a healthy child is teaching them how to make good decisions. We have a system for this. If my son wants to save for a certain toy he can and will. Then once he reaches the amount saved we match it and put it in his savings account. Then he buys his toy. I think when he’s older we’ll start covering more financial principles with him. He learns a lot through his lemonade stands. I throw in marketing and economics stuff as we set up. We go over charts and statistics of sales. To me this is all about empowerment through knowledge.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Cute with the lemonade stand!

          My daughters are really into playing the Pokemon battle card game and so is my husband, this game alone has expanded their reading, math, and strategy skills.

          But, I’m really sick of all the Pokemon cards everywhere, the decks, the binders with cards in protective cases, the deck boxes… it’s TOO much for my senses and after successfully keeping my house organized for over two months (this is a huge win for me) I let everyone know that they had acquired enough Pokemon cards and that if the girls wanted more Pokemon cards then they would need to purchase the decks/cards themselves.

          So my oldest daughter Savannah has been selling her artwork to earn money to buy more decks. She negotiates prices for her manga drawings etc. She also asks for other ways she can earn money. She is very entrepreneurial minded in this respect. So she has a plan to earn enough money to buy as many Pokemon cards as she wants. We also consistently save money for each child in a joint savings account to give them when they are older.

          Going shopping is another way for them to put numbers behind what we are purchasing and whether it is affordable or if they need to pass on the item. They can quickly do the math in their head of how much certain combined items would cost and whether or not they have enough in their individual piggy bank accounts to cover what they are asking to get.

          But, I totally agree with Sarah with checks and registers… it seems unnecessary for the digital age. I use Excel to keep track of our income and our expenses and how much we have to save every month/year. I also have a minor in Accounting, and learning the debits/credits/ledger stuff is not that difficult even for someone who never used a checkbook register like myself.

          Hope you are having a great summer! :)

  2. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Sarah, this is one of my favorite posts or yours. Your voice sounds different.

    I agree about what rather than how. I use mint app on my phone. I know exactly how much money I have and where it was spent when and where.

    I made “migas” (friendship?) with a trustworthy mechanic for when my husband is at work, my dad is at work, and my car needs to be repaired and I don’t have $700 to do it at the Toyota shop. He’s good. I trust him. I don’t need to know how to do it myself. God knows it’d take an eternity because my mind wanders when I’m learning things that are engineering related.

    In the past Id think “I wish I was smart enough to create apps and such” when I would have a good idea at 3 am sleepless. But now I know that I just need to figure out the details of the idea and then connect to someone that can do the actual app.

    The world seems less reduced when you think that you have to do everything to achieve what you want. Instead, you realize that you got something that someone else wants and that maybe, the person that can help you wants something that other someone else has. If we just figure out how to make everyone win, even a little, then we don’t have to learn to do everything. We can just zero in and do what we’re good at. Or maybe mildly good at but intensely interested in doing it and get better at it.

    My dad used to constantly tell me I had to learn how the car works. I have an idea. In theory. But every time he calls me to it I am wearing a dress and high heels and he’s talking about the carburetor and I’m thinking about the people who invented all these things of beauty and wonder what their childhood was like to get them to that point.

    So I gave up. Secretly (I don’t tell my dad that). And I just found a mechanic I enjoy talking to. He brings a stool for me to sit on and I bring tacos and a soda and we’ll chat while he’s under the hood of the car. I’ll stay as long as the taco lasts and then pick up my car, write him a check. Eat another taco. And forget to text until the next time my car breaks down.

  3. Karla Archer
    Karla Archer says:

    This post resonated with me so much. It’s funny you mention the checkbook thing… I’d been struggling with this, because I had in my mind that holding money in your hand was the only way for it to be real to kids. But it’s really just a piece of paper to represent an abstract thing. So it’s really no different than learning to see money as real when looking at a number on the screen.

    Great post and great reminder.

  4. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    My approach to financial education is to openly discuss money in front of my children. My little girl is too young to make sense of it, but my son has a good grasp of the local real estate market, how much people make per hour and per year in different jobs or professions, what it costs to buy plane tickets and rent villas, how much meals cost at different restaurants and at the supermarket, and how compound interest and mortgages work. I had a good conversation with him the other day about the tax consequences of charitable donation of appreciated securities. There’s a lot to engage with there.

    Balancing checkbooks isn’t really a concern of ours, nor will it be of his. By talking about the bigger picture I hope to give him an idea of the cost of his lifestyle and the decisions necessary to maintain it, as well as the different places and ways he can choose to engage with the economy.

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