“Just write a check.”

That legendary Heft family quote did not come from either of my parents, but from my 8-year-old sister. Somehow, she had mastered the concept of floating a check early on, like a true prodigy. I retold this story while I was training to become a Certified Money Coach because it illustrated perfectly how children are actually much more skilled at absorbing information than adults give them credit for.  

Whatever we teach children about money — actively or passively — we’re teaching them skills they are going to use in the real word — actively or passively.

Now that everyone is using credit cards and debit cards to pay for things, children don’t have any concept of money. Making change is almost a thing of the past, and with it goes the tangible aspect of currency. The idea of buying something and getting change back fascinated me as a child — though honestly I wanted the change and the dollar.

We need to stop failing our kids and teach them about money and credit. Equally important, we need to shield our kids from our bad habits. If you need to float a check (it happens to everyone), try to discuss it out of earshot of the kids. It’s also important to open their eyes to the idea of working for money, starting with why you go to work every day.

If we start financial education early, we can raise some darn good savers, investors…and hopefully philanthropists!