How to Map Your Kids Money Mindset

Here are two questions new and expecting parents should ask themselves:

  • Who is going to map my child's money mindset?
  • At what age will the mapping begin with purpose and intent?
  • Let me define the terms map and mindset.

    By map I mean plotting major markers in kids heads and hearts for them to reference and shape their thinking on money.

    For now, we can define mindset as habits, attitudes, feelings and thinking on money. According to Dan Ariely, noted Duke University Behavioral Economist and author of the book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, environments and emotions play a large role in our decision making.

    Parents should ask the above-mentioned questions if they want to:

  • Prepare their children to have a healthy relationship with money
  • Give them a fighting chance to become financially self-sufficient, and
  • Help them avoid the consequences of hyper consumerism and debilitating debt our national economy and environment encourages.
  • If parents are going to take charge of their kids’ money mindsets, mapping needs to start earlier than many adults suspect, including educators and financial service professionals. Here are a few reasons why:

  • 2013 research from Cambridge University revealed adult money habits and attitudes are set by age seven!
  • Researchers at Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris, France, tested 20-month-old babies and found these infants understanding of the workings of their environment, and of their own place within that environment, is much more sophisticated than parents and educators ever imagined. Source: Time Magazine
  • A child's brain produces more than a million neural connections each second from birth to age three. Source:
  • Scientists believe an infant’s repeated exposure to words clearly helps their brain build the neural connections that will enable them to learn more words later in life. Source: University of Maine Extension
  • Studies show advertising does push kids to unhealthy behaviors, but that it is also increasingly difficult to shield them from advertising. Source: New York Times
  • Here are some additional data and statistics parents want to consider in thinking about kids, money, and financial education.

  • While youth’s financial literacy is low, kids spending power is increasing. Source: Study, North Carolina State University
  • 27 states received grades C, D or F in a 2017 national report card on state efforts to improve financial literacy in high schools. Source: Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy
  • A 2017 national survey which sampled 1,014 parents of children ages 8 to 14 and their kids, found that positive money behaviors and expectations among kids are often associated with parents' decision to let their kids decide how to save and spend their money on their own, as well as modeling good financial habits. Conversely, troubling financial habits among kids were more frequently seen when parents have a troubling history with money. Source: T. Rowe Price
  • So, what can parents do to consciously and effectively shape their kids’ money mindsets? Here are three tips:

    FIRST, develop a script.

    Whether it is entertainment, sports or business, managers, directors and coaches all use written scripts, plans and playbooks to increase their odds of success. Parents should do the same.

    Hence, step one is invest time writing down your core money beliefs and messages. Taking this step has important benefits. It clarifies and cements your financial feelings’ and thinking in your own mind. This enables you to communicate what you choose with more purpose. It also serves as a stimulus for you to act on your philosophy yourself. If you are able to better align your thinking, feelings, and behavior on money, it means your kids are going to get more consistent messaging on the subject whether it is what they hear, see, or feel being transmitted from you.

    Your script should minimally address four areas: earning, saving, smart spending, and giving. Here are a few simple and empowering messages we share with kids on each topic starting around age three.

  • Earning money is fun to do. It’s smart to earn money. Earning money is a great habit.
  • Saving money is fun. It’s smart to save money. Saving money is a great habit. Saving money gets your money to grow. Saving money builds you up. Saving money helps you to get the things when you want them. Note, the same can be said about investing.
  • Spend slow. Spend smart.
  • Give wisely. Giving wisely is a great habit.
  • We place extra emphasis on the habit of saving money. We do this because the payoffs gained from learning to save extend beyond finances. Learning to save consistently teaches a child discipline, delayed gratification, and goal-setting. It builds esteem. It also helps lead any individual, child, teen or adult, to start asking questions about their money choices. What interest rate is my savings earning? What is investing? Should I be investing? Am I making the right spending choices, etc.?

    SECOND, develop a list of vocabulary on money and goal setting you want your children to be exposed to.

    One key to this step is not to focus and measure success by whether a young child understands or is able to explain each term. Instead concentrate on how often you can expose your child to the words you determine are important for them to be aware of. Comprehension will come later through repetition.

    Also, see if you can become conscious of how you communicate about money. Listen to yourself – what you say and how you say it. What words and emotions do you attach to money? How do you express them, verbally and nonverbally? For example, do you “hate” your job? Do you love sales? Do you celebrating saving and investing?

    Your list should include but go beyond the identification and naming of numbers and coins. Your list might include words like:

  • Money, cash, coins, bills, checks, credit card, ATM
  • Earn, work, effort
  • Save, bank, deposit, add to, build up, interest, grow, compound, invest, own
  • Spend, buy, shop, compare, contrast, wait, value
  • Give, donate, volunteer, share
  • Plan, goal, dreams, choice, decision, budget, track, measure, habit, time, action, grow, interest
  • You may also want to examine and consider making small but important changes in your speech patterns. Rather than say something like, “I cannot wait to take you to Disneyland.” Instead share, “I cannot wait to start planning a trip to Disneyland.”

    THIRD, make a list of activities and experiences you can do with your kids that reinforce the habits, attitudes, feelings and thinking you want to map into their money mindsets.

    This might include stories, songs, activities, games, arts, crafts, making deposits into a piggy bank, at the bank, or online, playing store, cutting coupons, making shopping lists, doing and getting paid for small jobs around the house, and paying for inexpensive items themselves.

    Once you have laid the foundation both in their minds and yours, you can incrementally grow the process to include other subjects like credit, borrowing, planning, insurance, taxes, inflation, etc.

    FINALLY, remember education is a process. And, in the case of financial education, it is a process that should take place from womb to tomb.

    Discover more about Sam, Sammy Rabbit, their thinking and resources on kids and money at