generosity, helping others, organization, responsibility

Developing Financial Responsibility & A Generous Heart

Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman

We all want the best for our children, and we all want to prepare them as best we can for all that life has to offer in terms of overcoming challenges successfully. Helping children to be spiritually and religiously competent is the most essential part of our role as parents; however, we must also invest time into helping them navigate other valuable aspects of life, including, but not limited to: emotional maturity, positive social relationships, healthy habits and practices, and financial responsibility. Our children will, in sha Allah, grow up to be the decision makers in their own homes, and in order to do that successfully, they will need knowledge about good financial habits. Just like any other skill, this is something that has to be taught early on.

In Jatali Bellanton‘s book, Kids Who Bank, she discusses how children as young as 3-years-old can begin to learn about budgeting and saving, and I couldn’t agree more. In an effort to begin this critical lesson within my own household, I have begun to give my daughter a weekly allowance. It is small and its purpose is more about teaching her how to manage her money than it is about making her “wealthy.” Every Friday, she receives an allowance from me that is then divided into three categories–a jar for spending, a jar for saving, and a jar for charity. The majority of allowance goes into spending (which we can think about as a “checking” account for an adult) with an equal portion of the remainder being split between saving and charity. Occasionally, her grandparents will also join in by giving her an allowance, and she is able to choose how she wants to divide those funds or where she wants to allocate the total.

I am in the process of considering additional ways for her to earn extra money, and I want to be intentional about this. My thinking around this has taken me in circles, because: a) she has chores and those are things that I believe should be done as being part of a family/team and caring for our environment, and b) I don’t want to monetize kindness. She is naturally inclined toward wanting to help around the house and with her younger brother, mashaAllah, and so I don’t want that to become motivated by money rather than sheer goodness and the pleasure of Allah (swt). I’m still thinking about what meaningful work she can do that is beyond the expectation to earn some extra cash, because I do believe it should be earned and not given. This is a valuable lesson as well, in that we use our talents to benefit the world and make a living for ourselves. Allah (swt) wants us to utilize our talents, and He will provide the sustenance.

It has been interesting to watch her choose to put any additional funds into the savings and/or charity jars. And here is where the lessons truly take root. In this weekly process of exchanging money, there is a conversation that happens about where to spend money and what to spend it on; the importance of saving money and not spending all of it; and the injunction of our faith to be generous in helping others who are in need–whether through monetary means of not. It has been a great conversation starter and an opportunity to engage in a powerful dialogue around wise, financial decision-making that I hope will carry over into adulthood. It’s also wonderful that now, when we go to the store, it’s not a pointing battle about what she wants versus what we came for. She now has some “skin in the game,” so to speak, in feeling empowered to make decisions about how to spend her money or not, and whether or not she has enough for the item that she desires or has to wait to collect more. This process gives way to conversations around materialism versus minimalism, patience versus impulsivity, and wants versus needs. These are critical skills around building financial competence, and the ability to budget and use money responsibly.

In preparing my children for future, financial success, I have also made it a point to open bank accounts for each of them. I make a monthly contribution to those accounts and whatever additional funds they receive from holidays or special occasions throughout the year also goes into them. As they get older, in sha Allah, and they begin to work, they can begin to add their own earnings into those accounts as well. What I like about our current “money jar bank” is that my daughter can visibly see what she’s earning, where it’s going, how she is dividing it, etc. It is a tangible lesson, as opposed to something abstract that happens in the bank that we can’t see!

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