Helping kids save

You can play a crucial role in teaching your grandchildren how to manage money

child with piggy bank

Grandparents play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren.

And I’m not talking about spoiling them with treats.

Rather, grandparents have a unique teaching opportunity when it comes to money.

According to a recent study, a majority of young adults are open to talking about money with their grandparents, and most say their grandparents already have an impact on their saving and spending habits.

Working together with parents, grandparents can help set their grandkids up for financial success.

You can start talking with your grandchildren when they’re as young as 3 or 4 years old:

Share history 

Kids love hearing stories, and grandparents can start the conversation by talking about their own experiences.

Share how you earned spending money when you were young, how you paid for your education and any other stories of saving up for something you really wanted.

These types of conversations can serve as transitions into discussing your grandchild’s goals, whether they’re small, like buying a video game, or big, like saving for college.

Help wanted

Before you buy your grandkids the toys they’ve been eyeing, you can help them earn them!

Kids can sweep the floor, rake leaves or carry groceries.

By paying grandkids for the jobs they do, you can help them learn the concept of working for money.

Even if you don’t live nearby, you can have them do chores during visits or set up a system with their parents in which you provide money for extra chores the kids do around the house.

Tangible examples

Use real-life experiences to teach your grandkids about money.

The next time you’re shopping, look at different brands of the same product to teach price comparison.

Talk about what you bought when you were growing up — and how much it cost — to show how the value of money has changed over time.

If you go to the store at a slow time, you can give hands-on lessons by having them count cash and figure out the change. (If there’s a line behind you, you can always do a re-enactment at home.)

Once kids get older, the lessons change a bit. Try these ideas for teenagers:

Grandparent Match

Think of the Grandparent Match like an employer match for a 401(k).

You can help reward your grandkids by matching a certain percentage of the money they save.

The idea applies to short-term savings goals or long-term goals, like a new car, college or even retirement.

You may want to offer more generous terms than a standard 401(k) to give them an incentive to save.

I’ve heard of Grandparent Matches of 400 percent up to a fixed amount. That may be too good to pass up.

Beyond savings accounts

Don’t limit your match money to a savings account; explore other options that can yield higher returns, like a Roth IRA, in which money is contributed on an after-tax basis and earnings grow tax-free.

Roth IRAs are intended for retirement, so there are some rules to follow.

You can withdraw contributions at any time, but your grandchild has to wait until age 59 1/2 to withdraw the earnings without a penalty and/or tax.

Give educational gifts

There are some excellent books about personal finance, including books that cover budgeting, saving and investing.

You could also give older teens a consultation with a financial planner.

I have clients who bring in their grandkids to get them exposed to money management.

The bottom line is to have conversations early and often to expose your grandkids to new ideas and concepts.

Skip Johnson is an advisor and partner at Great Waters Financial in New Hope, a financial planning firm and Minnesota insurance agency. Skip also offers investment advisory services through AdvisorNet Wealth Management, a registered investment advisor. Learn more at