Kids and Money – the magical power of giving!

If you have more than one child, you know what it’s like when they bicker over toys – I’d rather stab my eyeballs out than listen to childish arguments about cheap imported plastic trinkets. 

Why is sharing so hard for kids to do?

Maybe this is best answered by psychoanalysts, but what I’m keen to understand, is how can I teach my kids to be generous with what they have? It’s toys today, but tomorrow it’s money. This could be the most important lesson on money I can teach to my kids. It’s not so much about teaching them to ‘make a difference’, and yes, that’s a part of it –  It’s about teaching them the magical power of money. A power that can do good if managed well, or cause harm, if managed poorly.

Perhaps it’s just a random coincidence, but people that I meet who are far wealthier than I, exhibit a curious quality: People who are financially generous, are financially successful. It’s almost like a kind of magic is working behind the scenes – magic that’s unleashed when unpredictable, self-less, generous action is taken consistently, through good times and bad.


I like the environment, I like animal welfare, and I like the idea of supporting causes, but I’m really careful with what I let my kids worry about. Time will prove this, but I suspect we’re doing more harm to kids than good by allowing them to worry about serious issues too soon. My wife and I  are trying to teach our kids to be generous to people, not causes. This is my personal preference and I’m sure you’ll have an opinion here too, but I want my kids to understand that people are the priority. Kids can understand generosity in the context of people, and they can see this work out in their own little worlds.

I guess this is a lesson for us before it’s a lesson for our kids, but here’s what I truly believe, and it’s been learnt from observation and participation – When you give, you receive. So, apart from leading by example, what should we do?

Here’s what we do with our kids now (primary school-aged currently)

The ‘Giving Jar’ is one of the 4 magical money jars that our kids made: Spending, Saving, Investing, and Giving.

When they work around the home, they get paid in 1 dollar coins. They decide which jars to put their coins into, and they know what each jar is for.

The Giving Jar is for people, or charities that are involved in helping people – it’s not for buying presents at Christmas or birthdays..

Instead of donating using Dad’s credit card or swiping the phone at a kiosk, they take their jar and they physically give away their money (that they earned). It’s tangible (coins are like that), it’s real (because they had to do work for it), and it’s a genuine sacrifice (because they know what they could have spent it on). 

Now there are some consequences to this financial education:

  • It could make me look rather stingy, especially if they are giving a higher proportion than what I am!
  • They may be angry in the future and perhaps think I ‘tricked’ them into giving away their income.
  • Or they may experience some of that magic that I’ve seen – they may end up attracting so much wealth that not only are they sorted, but others are sorted through them.

As parents, we’re willing to take the risk – It’s important that our kids are good with money, and being generous is a foundation lesson. Part of that is understanding the power of money to do good. If they can learn to give, then we’re going to welcome a power that does good in their lives instead of harm.