While you may know the money personality of you and your spouse, you may not pay much attention to the money personality of your kids. However, children’s attitude toward money can begin to show as young as the age of 5. From this age onward, you may find that your child tends to lean toward one of the three main money personalities: the saver, the spender, or the giver.

The Saver

Here are some signs that your kid’s spending personality is “the saver”:

  • They enjoy watching their savings grow
  • They usually spend money only on things that are really important for them
  • They’d rather not buy something than risk paying too much for it
  • They frequently choose less over more, or a less expensive option
  • They can spend money but get more satisfaction from having money left over
  • They understand the difference between things they want and things they need
  • They may find it hard to treat themselves or splurge on special items

The Spender

Here are some signs that your kid’s spending personality is “the spender”:

  • They don’t agonize over spending money
  • They love to give gifts
  • They spend money as soon as it’s available
  • They have a “live for the moment” attitude
  • They rarely return from shopping without having bought something
  • They tend to see a deal in every transaction
  • They like to have fashionable and trendy items
  • Shopping may cheer them up when they’re having a bad day
  • They may have trouble saving and controlling debt

The Giver

Here are some signs that your kid’s spending personality is “the giver”:

  • They focus on, and enjoy, helping others
  • They’re generous with their own time and money
  • They feel responsible for others’ well-being
  • They like to give gifts “just because”
  • They get a lot of joy from seeing friends and family happy
  • Putting themselves first is hard to do
  • They may have a hard time saying “no”

How to Support Your Kid’s Spending Style

If one spending personality sticks out more than the others for your child, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: no spending personality is any better or worse than another. 

These are just general descriptions for how your child may think about and deal with money, and each type has its own set of positive and negative aspects. They are meant to help you communicate with your children about finances in meaningful ways, and to counterbalance any negative aspects with the right kind of money messages.

What to Do If Your Child Is a Saver

Savers are generally responsible with their money, but they can easily lose sight of opportunities that arise that seem to counteract their desire to save. For instance, a teenager who is saving up for a car may be so focused on that goal that they forego social activities and events with friends. 

Our challenge as parents of savers is to encourage them to balance long-term financial goals with things that matter in childhood — family, friendships, and fun. After all, there’s much more to life than just money. 

Have your child focus more on the concepts of “smart spending” and giving. That might mean adding a line on their budget for a “want” like ice cream or a game they have been wanting to play. Encourage them to see that sometimes the value of spending is in the experience, such as spending time with friends and making memories.

What to Do If Your Child Is a Spender

If your child is a spender, they may not be able to differentiate between wants and needs. It’s good to be generous and live in the moment, but if spenders don’t learn to control their impulses, they may end up with nothing to fall back on.

Of course, the goal here is to find a healthy balance between enjoyment and responsibility. So, budgets will come in handy, as well as spending/saving splits, where they put a certain percentage (20-40%) of all money they receive into a savings account that will accumulate interest over time. Then will be able to spend the remaining 60-80% on things they want and need. If they’re hesitant about this process, try explaining the power of compound interest. Show them how even a small, regular amount of saving can grow over time.

What to Do If Your Child Is a Giver

When you see your kids being generous to others, it’s almost always a positive, but this same generosity may come at a cost to themselves in the future when financial pressures mount. Plus, when others see them continuously giving, they may be targeted and asked to give things they don’t have.

If your child is a giver, consider discussing the concept of generosity with your children, and the many different ways we can be generous that may not involve money at all. Sometimes gifting others with your time, talents, and treasures can be just as rewarding. You may also teach your child about learning and feeling empowered to say the word “no” when it’s appropriate.

It’s not that we want our children to be less generous, but it’s important for them to respect the value of money and the hard work that goes into earning it, as well as learn skills that prevent them from being taken advantage of. Encourage your child to work on responsibly saving and spending by providing opportunities for it. They may also find it helpful to abide by the 50/30/20 rule, where they spend 50% of their money, save 30%, and have 20% remaining to donate to causes that are important to them.

Understanding our kids’ different money personalities gives us a better way to support them as they grow into financially responsible adults. The more tools we can give them that are responsive to their money habits, the better we can equip them for their future.

Financial Lessons for Your Family

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