With the level of consumer debt skyrocketing and the cost of housing, education, and health care increasing at double digit rates, younger generations are facing unprecedented challenges to achieving economic security and financial independence.  Therefore, helping our youth to learn effective money management skills, and to adopt good financial habits and attitudes, is more important than ever.

So what can you do if you are worried about the financial future of your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews?  The place to start is by considering the positive influence you can have in shaping their financial well-being.  Next, think about and choose specific ways that you can be a proactive Money Mentor in their lives.  Here are suggestions and resources to get you started:

Set an Example—First and foremost, examine your money beliefs and behaviors and then take action to get your own financial life in order.  An excellent handbook for reaching this goal is You and Your Money by Lois A. Vitt and Karen L. Murrell.  Always remember that nothing is more effective in guiding the younger generation than providing a powerful role model.

Be Aware—Stay alert for teachable moments to share your financial expertise and wisdom.  Very few topics affect us on a day-to-day basis like money, so there are endless opportunities to provide mini financial lessons via word and example.  A wonderful resource for parents (and other caring adults) is The Financially Intelligent Parent:  8 Steps to Raising Successful, Generous, Responsible Children by Jon and Eileen Gallo.  For more information, visit http://www.galloconsulting.com/Financially-Intelligent-Parenting/.

Put it on the Calendar—In addition to impromptu conversations about money, William Anthes, past President of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), recommends establishing a new tradition—family finance nights.

He writes:

“The idea is for families to get together on a regular basis to talk about how money is earned, saved and spent.  The financial topic du jour is up to you, but the goal is always the same:  to give your children the invaluable gift of a financial education.”

For tips on establishing a regular family finance night, go to www.smartaboutmoney.org and download the article, “Money Night with Kids Instills Smart Financial Habits.”

Moon Jar

Use Tools—There are a number of great resources available to help make financial education fun and interesting for children.  One example is the Moonjar, “a tool for children and families to incorporate strong financial values and practices into their daily lives.”  The creator, Eulalie M. Scandiuzzi, explains the meaning behind the name of her product in this way:

Moon:  “To shoot for the moon”; to go after dreams and goals.

Jar:  Following ancient custom where wishes or dreams are written down and placed in a special jar for future celebration!

The Moonjar kit (www.moonjar.com) consists of three colorful moneyboxes (one each for spending, saving, and sharing), a special Moonjar elastic band to hold the assembled boxes together, a passbook for deposits and withdrawals, and a family guidebook.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP