There are all kinds of ways parents prepare their children for independence. They make them do their homework. They teach them how to cook without burning the house down. And — this is a big one — they help their child learn how to handle money. Done correctly, a child’s financial education is a long, slow process, made up of a lifetime of little lessons that grow in complexity as the child’s intellect develops. This is no different for children with disabilities – their circumstances may present some additional challenges, but here are some tips to get you started:
- Teach your child the important terms. It starts at the most basic level, with proper identification of quarters, dimes, and nickels. In time, you’ll move up to words like “budget,” “paycheck,” “checking account,” and “credit card.” The important takeaway is to have constant small conversations with your child, whether it’s while you’re swiping your credit card at the gas pump or saving change in a jar.
- Teach your child about the difference between needs and wants. We have all confused this issue from time to time. Children may be particularly vulnerable to mistaking wants for needs when emotions come into play, so reinforce the difference early and often.
- Teach your child what NOT to do. Don’t spend more than you earn, for example. As your child gets closer to independence, warn him of the dangers of paying credit cards late or choosing ones with annual fees and rising interest rates. Tell children to avoid check cashing stores and payday lenders.
- Make your child practice. Whether the funds are imaginary or real, hand them a budgeted amount and have them spend it. Maybe you just give them $100 to spend at the grocery store, or maybe you give them a larger monthly amount that they have to use for school expenses, clothes and more. The goal is to give them a safe place to fly or fail while under your watchful eye.
- Teach your child to save. It’s one thing to live within your means; it’s another to take the next step and save for a rainy day, and we all know those come. Tell your child about what you’ve been saving for, and challenge them to set their own savings goals.
- Teach your child how to use their ABLE United account. When you opened it, you probably had goals in mind. Do you hope your child will continue to build the savings in it? Or are you expecting your child to make withdrawals for qualified expenses such as housing, transportation and healthcare needs? Learn more about qualified disability expenses here.
If you want more help, the state of Florida has developed an online curriculum to provide educational lessons for individuals with developmental disabilities. Called “My Money,” the site includes lessons, games and how-to videos. You can find it here.