In this blog I have set out 4 secrets to help you motivate your kids to start saving some of their money. These secrets are based on the best-selling book ‘YES! : 50 secrets from the science of persuasion’.
Whilst this book is focused on helping salespeople and managers, there are some great examples which can be adapted to help you motivate your kids to save money and become wealthy.
Why do we need to motivate our kids to save money?
One of the most important actions we can take as parents, to ensure our kids grow up financially healthy and wealthy, is to help them form a habit of saving money from a young age.
Remember, kids form many of their adult money habits from the age of 7 and it’s the money habits that they form which will determine their future financial wellbeing. So, the younger we can teach our kids to save a bit of their money, the better.
I’m hoping you all realise the benefits of training your kids to save. If our kids form a savings habit by the time they are adults then they are less likely to go into debt, will have less money worries and, over the long-term survive their retirement (at the moment, a lot of people don’t have enough money to last their whole expected retirement)
These reasons for saving money are, however, unlikely to really grip the interest of our kids compared to spending their money on the latest video game or whatever else your kids are enjoying spending on at the moment. Therefore, we need to find other ways to motivate our kids to save.
4 Secrets to motivate your kids to save money
1. Define them as a ‘Savings Champion’
This secret requires you to sit down with your kids and following this simple script.
“Why is it important to save some of your money?”
This first part has two aspects. First, it opens up your kids minds to the fact that there are benefits of saving money (i.e. we have put the concept of saving money into their minds, as savings isn’t taught in school). Second, as you are getting them to come up with ideas, they are much more likely to remember these reasons compared to just being told about the benefits.
Once they have come up with benefits of saving money, say:
“That’s a great set of reasons. You really understand the importance of saving money more than most.”
This statement is essentially defining them as ‘Savings Champion’. They are more likely to conform to the person who ‘knows more than most’ and want to take the actions which are aligned to this positive character definition, i.e. likely to save money.
In the book ‘YES!’ - they give the example from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where Luke says to his father, Darth Vadar ’I know there’s still good in you. There’s good in you, I sense it’. Vadar wants to conform to this and ultimately helps save Luke from the Emperor.
This strategy doesn’t just work with encouraging your kids to save. Studies have shown that if you say to a child “You seem like someone who cares about their handwriting” they are much more likely to practice their handwriting, even if no one is watching them.
“Do you believe you will save your money as you are growing up?”
As they have just listed out the benefits of saving money and you have defined them as a ‘Savings Champion’, they are very likely to say "Yes". The importance of this last part is that they are making a public declaration to save money. This public declaration is going to further increase the chance of them wanting to save their money.
2. Create a storyboard of their future life
This secret is about encouraging your kids to visualise their future life.
"What would you like your life to look like in the future?"
Then get them to write-down, draw or create a presentation of their answers to this question. Get them to storyboard their future life. This could include:
Where they might want to live: By the sea, in a city, countryside etc.
What type of house they want to live in.
What they will spend their time doing.
What they will spend their money on.
Make sure you don’t put any limits on their future life - let them dream.
This process is helping them form a mental picture of their future in their mind, this is called ‘Mental Rehearsal’. Elite athletes use this technique all the time. For example, professional golfers picture their swings and where the ball is going to go in their minds before they actually swing their club. Research has shown that by doing this, they are more likely to replicate what they have seen in their mind and hit better shots.
Next, ask them:
"How can you see this happening?"
Get your kids to write down how they are planning to achieve the dream life they have come up with. This is where you can open up the conversation about saving money. With a clear picture of their future life in their minds (and now on paper), they are much more likely to want to take the required actions to achieve this. Also, the act of writing down the actions they need to take (an active action), further increases the chances that they will follow these actions.
As you’ll know from my previous blogs, I help my kids visualise their future savings as a forest. Each time they save (invest), they are planting a seed and they can picture this seed growing into a tree. Over time, if they keep saving they will grow their own financial forest and this will lead to them being able to have their dream life in the future. This is another example of Mental Rehearsal as they focus on seeing their money growing.
3. Progress already made
It’s really important that our kids learn to save up for the things they want. This helps them practice delaying their gratification (i.e. being patient, the third rule of wealth).
To motivate your kids to save for the things they want, I encourage you to reward them for doing so. Therefore, if they say they want something, offer to contribute towards it as a reward (if you can afford to).
For example, they might want a new bike which costs £100, why not say "If you save £75 then we’ll give you the extra £25 you need to buy the bike as a reward for saving".
One extra tip from the book YES! is to make it clear that they have already made progress towards their goal. Rather than focusing on them starting at zero and getting to £75 for the bike, focus them on the fact that they are already at £25 (with your contribution) and they need to get to £100. Whilst they still need to save £75, as they have made progress, they are much more likely to keep saving and to achieve their goal.
In YES!, it highlights how companies that give out loyalty cards use this strategy. Rather than giving their customers an empty loyalty card and requiring you to get 8 stamps for a bonus, they give you a card requiring ten stamps but pre-stamp the first two. As customers feel they are making progress (despite still needing 8 stamps), they are more likely to try to continue their progress towards the bonus, i.e. more likely to be loyal to that company.
4. Add a few words after a question
One great example in the book YES! is based on a charity which was trying to increase the number of people who would make donations. They had a base case of simply knocking on doors and asking for donations. Then they had a second group who would ask the same thing but also added "Even a penny will help".
This small addition after the request almost doubled the amount of people who donated (from 28% to 50%). Despite the saying 'Even a penny will help’ it didn’t lead to people donating just a penny, the average donation per person actually stayed the same.
This strategy works as our default is that big things need to happen in order to create change. The truth is that in most cases, a lot of small actions are likely to make a bigger difference. Therefore, if someone points out that a small action can actually make a difference, we are much more likely to take that small action.
In terms of talking to your kids about saving money, highlight that saving just a little bit of their money can make a big difference. There are two reasons for this. First, it means they can still spend most of their money and therefore it’s not taking away the enjoyment of spending. Second, saving a small amount frequently will help them form a savings habit. The compound effect of saving a small amount frequently over their lifetime will lead them to having the savings required to live a financially healthy life.
Therefore, each time your kids receive some money, ask them:
“How much of that money are you going to save? Remember that saving just a little bit makes a big difference”.
Hopefully you've already told them how even a small bit of money can grow due to Compound Interest.
For kids, saving money might not seem like fun but it is critical that kids start forming a savings habit from a young age.
Why not try some of these strategies with your kids today?
Define them as a ‘Savings Champion’: Ask them about the benefits of savings money so they see themselves as a ‘Savings Champion’
Create a storyboard of their future life: By picturing their future life they are much more likely to take the actions needed to achieve this life ('Mental Rehearsal')
Progress already made: When saving up for something they want, give them a reward at the start so they see progress already made
Add a few words after a question: When you give your kids some pocket money, remind them that 'Saving just a little bit can make a big difference'.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I'd strongly recommend you read the book 'YES!'. This book helps you (and your kids) discover the secrets that companies use to get you to spend your money. By being aware of these tactics, you have a much better chance of keeping hold of your money.
Now, make sure you've:
Ordered the book YES!
Read the 3 Rules of Wealth
Shared this blog to help other parents (remember, a little action can make a big difference!)