Life happens in stages, and we learn money in stages too. There are all sorts of “money milestones,” from earning your first dollar to buying your first car. Not to mention everything that happens in-between!

We all want our kids to develop good money habits. And part of that is learning how money works. But explaining big financial concepts in kid terms can sometimes be challenging.


Kids develop at different rates, but they all start observing and learning money habits from a young age. That’s why it’s never too early—or too late!—to start having intentional conversations with your kids. We’ll go through each of the following life stages and how to help teach your kids good money habits:

• Toddler to preschool
• Grade-school to preteens
• Teens to young adults


While significant financial concepts are hard to grasp at this age, this is where the foundation is being built for how your child will interact with money. At this age, kids start realizing things cost money and learn about different coins and their value. A great way to help them understand this is by bringing your child to the Credit Union to use our coin machines*. It’s free* to Members and can be a perfect teaching moment to show your child how coins have value. They’ll love looking over each coin before putting it in the machine to see what it’s worth!

But more importantly, they’re observing and noticing the spending habits of your family. Kids might not understand the specifics, but they can grasp general ideas. You can help them navigate these big concepts by talking about the things they see every day. If you go for a walk, point out people working—like the mailman or a police officer—and explain that working is the way everyone earns money.

When you’re home, and your child is playing “restaurant,” and they bring you a meal, don’t forget to “pay” for the food. Or, if you’re grocery shopping, help explain the difference between a want (new toy) and a need (toilet paper). These things may seem small, but they will help build the foundation needed to understand how money works. And even better, they’re simple things that can be worked into everyday conversations!


School-age kiddos are at the perfect age to take on an active role in learning about money. One of the best ways to do this is to open a youth savings account. It can help show kids the value of saving versus spending and allow them to make financial decisions, like how much of their birthday money they should save.

Usually, credit unions and banks offer some type of account for young kids, and the best kinds offer a higher interest rate to help get them started. For example, our Jump Start Savings Account for kids has a higher dividend rate than your typical savings accounts (meaning you earn more interest on what you have saved in the account!). So, it is worth comparison shopping and investing in one for your kid! Plus, parents or guardians usually co-own the account until the youth turns 18. That way, it’s easy to monitor. Just be sure to pick a financial institution that is FDIC or NCUA insured.

Of course, there are other activities you can do to help teach your kids! If they receive an allowance, find ways to plan with them what they want to do with the money. Or maybe they’d like to make some extra cash? Together you can brainstorm ways to earn that extra moolah, like running a lemonade or cookie stand!


The teenage years can be challenging enough on their own, but helping your kids get started on the right foot financially doesn’t have to be! At this age, they can start taking on more responsibility. Maybe that’s introducing your teen to a budget and showing where the family spends money. Or your first step may be getting your teen their first debit card, so they can start learning how and when to swipe their card. It’s a more risk-free way to introduce your child to the idea of “credit” versus starting with an actual credit card.

Plus, as a parent, you’re still on their youth account until they’re 18, which gives you an easy way to monitor their spending. There are plenty of tools to help with this! With online banking, it’s easy to log in and see where and how much your teen is spending. And when you download services like the Control My Card by KTVAECU® mobile app, you can even set spending limits and have the ability to turn the debit card “on” or “off” if you need to.


As kids grow, they continue to learn more and more about money. Each stage holds something new, but you can help your kids get a jump start on their financial future by helping them build a strong foundation. Ideas such as goal setting, planning, ways to earn, saving for the future, and sticking to a budget will be skills that help them all the days of their life!


*No-fee coin machines are available to Members of Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union. Non-Members are charged a 10.00% fee. Coins must be clean and free of debris. Coin machines are maintained for accuracy; however, the Credit Union cannot guarantee coin machines will be error-free and may occasionally be out-of-service. The Credit Union does not assume liability for loss or destruction of coins. Available at branch lobby locations only.