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Financial Tip

Oliver Wendell Holmes, former Justice of the United States Supreme Court, once said, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Although people work hard to meet their needs and the needs of their families, there are some things they cannot purchase themselves. For example, the taxes paid to state and local jurisdictions help pay for police and fire protection. These taxes also pay for the operation of the local governments, and for local recreation areas such as parks and other public facilities.

On the national level, federal income taxes help pay for defense for the country. They also pay for capital facilities such as highways and other transportation services, and to help those who are poor or ill. These are all services that individual citizens cannot purchase the way they can buy food and clothing and the other necessities of life. When people live together in a society, all of its citizens bear the cost of providing such services. Taxes are the means by which the society raises the money to cover these public costs.

The United States Department of the Treasury has a number of fact sheets that can help people better understand the various taxes imposed in the United States. These include: Economics of Taxation explains how taxes support government services and benefit the country's citizens. Writing and Enacting Tax Legislation explains the process for developing and passing legislation into law.

In addition, Lesson 1.5 of the Yes, You Can Curriculum includes classroom examples of how taxes are collected and used by the various jurisdictions.

Source: Adapted from United States Department of the Treasury.

Teaching Your Kids Good Money Habits

According to results of a recent Financial Literacy Survey by Harris Poll on behalf of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), 59 percent of respondents said they deserved a grade of "A" or "B" when it comes to their personal financial knowledge. However, 70 percent said they were somewhat worried about their personal finances; 60 percent don't have a budget and 24 percent are not paying their credit card bills on time.

Based on these results, in addition to needing help for themselves, some parents may need help in getting their children and teens off on the right financial footing, too.

There are many opportunities outside of the home for children to learn about money. However, the lessons they learn in the home are among the most valuable and make the biggest impression on their life-long attitudes about spending, saving and living a healthy financial lifestyle. 

And while you may not possess formal, in-depth training or education on financial planning, there are some basic habits you can exhibit to put your children on a path to a better financial understanding.

  • Talk about the importance of establishing good money habits. Sharing the lessons you have learned by making poor money choices can provide your children with the information they need to avoid repeating similar errors. Regular conversations regarding your personal and family finances can go a long way toward helping your children get on the right foot when it comes to making their own money decisions. 
  • Demonstrate good money habits. Children pay attention to how their parents handle financial decisions and transactions. While it may be easier to pull out the credit or debit card when making purchases, paying with cash gives youngsters a better understanding of what takes place during a financial transaction and how you are trading your money for the goods or services you receive. This can make an impact as they think about how they want to trade the money they have in their piggy bank. 
  • When you do use plastic to buy something, make sure you show your children how that purchase will affect the balance in the bank account and explain the importance of paying off a charge card upon receiving a monthly statement to avoid paying expensive interest charges or late fees.Be realistic about your spending habits.
  • Don't spend money you don't have - this includes using a credit card if you aren't able to pay the balance in full when the bill arrives. Set savings goals for extra items you are interested in purchasing. This will allow you to stay true to your budget and will help teach your children a valuable lesson that something really worth having will still be important to them when they have saved enough money to buy it. A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 days before purchasing extra items. Often, at the end of that time period, people realize that what they thought they wanted to have initially they really don't need or want.
  • Talk to your children about the value of working and earning money to acquire the things they need and want. This can be as simple as doing chores for neighbors, mowing yards and walking dogs. Once they start earning their own money, the concept of saving and careful spending will mean much more and they will have a better understanding about the value of making well-thought-out decisions about money. In addition to using online resources, such as those on Yes, You Can and kids.gov, traditional board games, like Hasbro's popular Monopoly® or The Game of Life® also help reinforce these important financial messages you have been sharing.

Teachable Moments

Teaching your children good money habits is relatively easy.

There are countless opportunities to talk about the importance of spending wisely and saving regularly, whether you are shopping for groceries, paying bills, planning a vacation or playing board games together.

Start the conversation about building better money management practices in the home early in your children's lives. The lessons they learn can help give them the knowledge they need to become financially responsible adults.