Teaching my Son Savings

My son is 5 and has a way to go until I can really teach him about investing. Sure we fund his 529, and that’s our money. Further, any money gifted to him is transferred into I-bonds. I know we could get more money for him by investing that in the market, but we aren’t talking about a lot of money at this point in time. This is the starting point for him. At some point, I will set aside some real sum for him to get him started with an investment account. Sure, sooner is better, but we also have bills to pay and our own retirement to consider.

Besides, this post is not about that, but about teaching him delayed gratification and the value of savings. Rewinding a few years, my boy has always loved to do what daddy was doing. I first noticed how chores could come into play when he was a few months before his third birthday. I was outside clearing snow off the driveway, and he wanted to help. He picked our plastic snow shovel and tried to clear the snow as I was doing. It was only an inch or so, but it was difficult for the little guy. He actually put down trucks to do this with daddy. I helped him out, and while it slowed me down, I encouraged him to think that he was actually helping. That has continued with every storm we’ve had. I’ve allowed him to be out there with me, and took the extra time to let him “help” to encourage him.

Later, we gave him a few chores like putting the dog’s food in her bowl, replacing the wiiwii pads for the dog, and putting the silverware out for meals. These are little chores that are a real assistance for us. We thought it would help motivate him as he loves the dog who loves him as well, and the dinner table well all kids get that chore.

These things were easy at first for him to want to do, again, I usually ended up cleaning up the mess with the dog’s food, and fixing the layout of the wiiwii pads. Still he was trying, and was only about 4 when we started this in earnest. Nevertheless, after some initial excitement, he started to fail off. We chose some mix of positive and negative reinforcement until I had a different idea. We are capitalists after all, so I decided that we would get him a reasonable present after he did 100 chores.

I created this chart in a drawing program, and taped this to the back of the front door to the house. The boy loved it. All of a sudden, seeing the checks we put in, he had stronger motivation.

As a bonus, as he started making progress, he started to become obsessed with learning how to count. Then he progressed to counting how many he had left to do get his present. Finally, as this took the better part of a year, he started working on subtraction. This was all on his own, although my wife and I did encourage him to do it. It worked, and his basic math skills are quite good for his age.

As you can see in the image, we are on to the next 100 chores. When he does this, then we will reward him again.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this successful bit of motivation. The effects have been wonderful. He’s motivated to do more chores, and he’s doing more math. That’s a good thing.


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