When teaching kids about money, the key is to look for mini-teachable moments. As we approach Christmas, one of those moments can be watching or reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens together as a family.
There are many money aspects in this story which you can talk to your kids, and get them thinking, about.
The important thing is that you take a couple of minutes afterwards to discuss.
5 Lessons From A Christmas Carol
ONE: Hoarding money doesn’t bring happiness
“You can never have enough money” Scrooge
At the start of the story, Scrooge has lots of money but doesn’t spend any or give much away. He believes that money is to be kept and not given away.
Ask your kids “Can you ever have enough money?”
The answer, in my mind, is ‘yes - you can have enough money’. Remember that money is just a tool to achieve your life goals. Having lots of tools shouldn’t be the goal.
I’ve met people who have worked in high-powered jobs, earning large salaries, but never got to see their kids much as they were too busy working. After their kids had grown up, they wished they’d used their money to spend more time with their kids.
So, the teachable moment is to make sure your kids don’t focus on ‘wanting lots of money’ but focusing on what will they use money for which will make them happy.
TWO: Giving is a key to happiness
“Giving to the poor encourages laziness” Scrooge
Ask your kids “Does giving to the poor encourage laziness?”
At the end of A Christmas Carol Scrooge gives money to help others and feels great about this.
This is a brilliant teachable moment and one that needs to be reinforced by talking about it after they have read the book or watched the film. Money isn’t just for spending, so much joy can be achieved by giving to others.
A lot of parents have said that the story ‘The Happy Fairies’, from Grandpa’s Fortune Fables, about giving charity was one of their favourites as it highlights that giving not only helps others, it also helps those who are giving.
THREE: Consumed by money
“Money makes you important” Scrooge
Ask your kids “Does money make you important?”
Hopefully, they say “Money does not make you important!”
It’s such a shame that so many adults believe that money means you are important. It’s one of the reasons the notion of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ exists. We are all largely insecure and see that if we appear to have money then people will feel we are important.
We need to help our kids realise that it’s not about how much money you have that makes you important. It’s about what you do with your money (and/or time) that matters. Someone who has lots of money but just spends it on themselves isn't as important as someone who gives their time or money towards a good cause and helping others.
Nurses, teachers, policemen and policewomen and many other service workers are super important even if sadly they don't always earn as much as they could in some other jobs.
FOUR: Be wary with your money
“You can’t trust anyone with your money” Scrooge
Ask your kids “Can you trust people with your money?”
Sadly, into today’s world, we have to be really careful who we trust with our money. This is not to say we can’t trust anyone but we should certainly not trust everyone. There are a lot of scammers around and they are starting to target people at a younger age.
We shouldn’t scare our kids. We should let them know that their money is 'safe' in a bank and when invested via regulated entities. The key is to make sure that if someone says they can make them rich quickly, or if something sounds too good to be true, then they should be very wary as that person probably shouldn’t be trusted.
The hardest part is when people's family and friends ask for money. Can they be trusted? This is more for older kids. Borrowing and lending money with friends and family can be very challenging as there could be scenarios when ‘trust’ can be broken. I’ll probably write a blog on this topic next year.
FIVE: Your past can be different from your future
”I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon” Scrooge
This is clearly one of the biggest messages from A Christmas Carol. Scrooge sees his past, present and future and doesn’t like what he sees. He uses this as a catalyst for change. He starts to help others around him and he appears happier than ever.
This point is more for you than your kids. When it comes to money, your future is not set in stone. Your financial future and your kids’ financial future are not determined by the past. We all have the ability to be great role models for our kids if we take the time to learn to look after our money. In fact, showing that you can change is something which we should be highlighting to our kids.
As Grandpa Jack says in Grandpa’s Fortune Fables “Everyone can become wealthy, if they take the time to learn”.
There are some amazing stories of people who have been in financial hardship but decided to turn things around and change their financial future for the better. It takes hard work and a lot of patience.
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A Christmas Carol is an amazing story. I hope over the festive period you get the chance to read or watch it with your family. If you do, see it as a ‘teachable moment’ and ask questions afterwards about what they learned and how this applies to money.
Remember, teaching kids about money shouldn’t be a lecture. We should make learning about money as a series of teachable moments. Look out for games, stories and experiences where you can introduce different money topics. On that note, you should check out my blog '5 lessons about money from Monopoly'.
Thanks for reading!