By Julio Martinez, Executive Director, ScholarShare Investment Board

April 26, 2022

As parents, we know how important it is to read to our children and teach them to love books at an early age. We know that reading provides an excellent foundation that will help our children as they navigate through all levels of school.

As the father of three school-aged children, I believe that it’s equally important to teach our children about financial literacy. And, yes, at an early age!

It may seem daunting, but teaching young children the basics of financial responsibility may be easier than you think, and it can help them make better decisions in the future and lead to more productive lives.  They can quickly learn all about saving, earning, and spending wisely.

In my own family, growing up, we had varying levels of financial savvy. Fortunately, good savings habits were instilled in us by our parents at an early age, but our understanding of more complex concepts such as budgeting, investing, and the power of compound interest came later as we got older and had more experience with managing and spending money.

Here are several ways to get your young children to start to think about money:

  1. Provide them with a piggy bank.
  2. Offer an allowance for helping around the house or rewards for getting good grades.
  3. Encourage them to save and set goals for how they want to spend their money.
  4. Teach them how to compare prices when you go shopping.

This basic knowledge can go a long way toward helping children make sound financial decisions in the future.  If your children are in junior or senior high school, open a checking account for them and teach them how to keep it balanced. They should know exactly how much they have in it at any given time. If they have the time, encourage them to take a part-time job. See if their employer offers any incentives for higher education. Many of them do.

Financial literacy can sound daunting, but the basics of balancing a checkbook, saving for college and retirement, and other unforeseen expenses can provide life-long benefits.  Here are a few things to teach your older children that will help later:

  • Limit credit card debt. When possible, pay off those credit card balances, especially those with high interest rates.  The finance charges and interest rates really can add up.
  • Set a monthly budget and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Examine monthly subscriptions and see if they can get by with fewer of these. If you have subscription services that you rarely use, consider canceling them.
  • Create an emergency fund and use it only for emergencies.
  • Try to invest any spare money you can find. Start investing early to help your money go further when you need it.

My wife and I started college savings plan accounts for our three children early on and, over the years, have had insightful conversations with them about the accounts.  As they quickly approach college age, we have further emphasized key financial literacy components, which we feel will impact them as they move toward higher education and their future career aspirations.  By opening a college savings account for children when they are young and teaching these core lessons, I am confident that if families will open a college savings account, they will be better prepared to pay for their higher education expenses and succeed in their future endeavors.


About the Author

Julio Martinez is Executive Director of the ScholarShare Investment Board, the state agency that administers California’s ScholarShare 529 college savings plan. Visit for more details about ScholarShare 529.