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When the Money Game Goes Beyond Play Station Status

May 31, 2007 By:
Craig G. Langweiler, JE Feature
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Who is teaching your kids about money?

The answer, unfortunately, may be no one.

In the 2001 "Parents, Youth & Money Survey," written by the TIAA-CREF Institute, 61 percent of parents reported feeling that the responsibility to educate their children about finances should be shared by them and their child's school. When asked to describe just how they educated their child about money and personal finances, more than half (56 percent) were only able to provide one example.

Since 1997, only a handful of states have incorporated personal finance into their school curriculum standards, so the question remains:

Are children learning about money if they aren't learning about it at home or in school?

Even when kids are young, teaching them the fundamentals of saving money and budgeting can give them a significant head start on long-term goals, such as retiring, buying a car or first home, and financing an education.

Here are some tips on bringing kids into a family financial picture -- while at the same time recognizing your very own financial needs:

· Set goals together. If retirement seems a long way off to you, imagine how far off it seems to your children. But, teaching your children the value of saving little by little now to meet a goal in the future is an important and basic lesson that can be taught at an early age.

· Save, save, save! Just like adults, children enjoy the gratification gained by buying things they want. Saving money instead of spending it right away delays that gratification. Showing them how regular contributions build up over time -- leaving them with more than they started with -- can leave a lasting impression.

Talk to them about how contributions to your company's retirement savings plan help you accumulate wealth over time through the "magic" of compounding.

It may make them think twice about spending money on frivolous purchases when they could be saving for something of greater and more lasting value.

· Introduce them to investing early. Use your plan's investment options to help explain basic concepts and terms, such as diversification, the difference between stock funds and bond funds and how different investment vehicles work with different investment strategies.

These concepts may seem too advanced when your children are young, but exposing them to these ideas early can lay a solid foundation for financial know-how as your children mature and gain more economic independence. It also can help them understand the complex investing process so that they become investment-savvy as adults and make wise fiscal decisions.

Leave a healthy financial legacy by educating your children about personal finances and reminding them that their future is closer than they think. Save them the time, frustration and expenses you wish someone had spared you.

Don't make the same mistake when it comes to their future that most people make when it comes to their own. Which is? Doing nothing!

· Practice what you preach. Any parent will tell you that getting children to do what's good for them can seem impossible at times, and even the most vigilant parents can feel discouraged.

Apparently, there are certain habits we don't outgrow, such as ignoring the advice of those who know better when it comes to saving. Think this is limited to kids? Even with plenty of retirement savings options and investment vehicles to choose from, many adults do not save for retirement and must continue to work in their later years.

Now, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute 2006 Retirement Confidence Survey:

· Only 24 percent of survey respondents are "very confident" that they will have enough money to live comfortably when retirement comes.

· More than half (51 percent) of respondents reported having less than $25,000 in total savings and investments (excluding their homes and their defined benefit plans).

· Less than half (42 percent) of respondents claim that they or their spouses have completed a retirement needs calculation to determine how much money they will require to live comfortably when they stop working.

Educating your children now about the importance of planning ahead and saving for retirement can spare them unnecssary stress and financial instability later.

Do yourself the same favor. Make sure that your investment strategy and participation in your company's retirement savings plan suit your retirement needs and the long-term financial goals you set for yourself and your family.

Craig G. Langweiler is president of the Langweiler Financial Group, in Newtown. He can be reached at 215-860-8088 or at: clangweiler@ americanportfolios.com.

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