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Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

by Diana Patchett

"Money doesn’t grow on trees," said my parents. To which they would often have received rolling eyeballs, a pleading gaze, tears and tantrums – or all of the above.

In hindsight, I enjoyed a very comfortable upbringing, but try telling that to the girl who craved that new bicycle or the teenager who couldn’t survive without the very latest everything. Fiscal constraints are difficult to manage at any age, I suppose, and our virtually cashless society can make it even harder nowadays for young children as they try to understand why Mum or Dad can’t simply ‘use the card’ and get them what they want.

It’s never too early (or ever to late) to educate young people about money. This week is New Zealand Money Week, designed to get New Zealanders talking about money. The nationwide event features a range of activities, workshops and seminars to help build financial capability, so it was fitting that we used it to launch Westpac School Banking in the Junior School.

How much do your children know about money? Experts say improving children's financial literacy is as easy as explaining what you are doing when you pay your bills and giving them a bit more control over their pocket money.

A Cambridge University study found that how we behave with our money as adults is decided by the time we are 7, when most children can recognise the value of money. Most 7-year-olds were capable of planning ahead, delaying a decision until later and understanding that some choices were irreversible.

Being responsible with money means to live within one's means: more money has to come in than go out. It seems simple, but it only sticks when it is personally experienced. Financially empowered children get comfortable with money earlier and learn to make better financial decisions over time. They understand that money is not the point of life, something to obsess over, or something to fear.

Money is simply a tool to use confidently as we work toward our life's dreams.

A modern take on the piggy bank is gaining traction with parents who are keen to build social skills alongside financial awareness in their children. Rather than ‘hiding away’ a child’s savings in a solid collection vessel, three clear jars are used and labelled ‘Share’, ‘Save’ and ‘Spend’. Children are given the responsibility to choose which jar their money goes into, and out of, and for what.

In an age where young people can fall victim to defining themselves by the brands they wear and may be heavily influenced by a celebrity culture that excessively displays wealth, the ‘Share’ and ‘Save’ jars can help them fend-off the pressures of consumerism. 

Compassionate children are more grateful for what they already have. They find it easier to keep things in perspective, and tend to have a healthier relationship with money, providing a natural defense to our spending culture. But like most life skills, compassion requires practice from a young age too. 

Of course there are many ways to encourage compassion in our children: from paying attention to the plight of the less fortunate around us, to diversifying our reading, to volunteering time. Sharing is different. Young people who share do so with a specific cause in mind. There is a direct connection between their monetary contribution, its use, and most importantly, its impact. Sharing resonates more deeply with children, which is long remembered, filling a child's natural sense of justice and generosity.

Kristin is proud to provide an environment that encourages responsible financial management and altruistic behaviour – it simply makes good ‘cents’.