How Do You Help Families Get in the Habit of Saving?

This is a guest post by Sam Renick — Sam is dedicated to teaching financial literacy and other empowering life skills and habits in a strategic manner (ie. both entertaining and educational) to youths of all ages, with a focus on young children and their families.

For the last 8 years, I have had the tremendous fortune of traveling throughout the United States, as well as parts of Europe and Asia promoting financial education to students and families at schools,

book fairs, community events, seminars, conferences, trade shows, boys and girls clubs, YMCAs, YWCAs, parent meetings, banks, and credit unions. (See Video)

It all started…

…the late 90’s after having hundreds of financial clients share with me that they regretted either not having started to save or having had someone talk to them about the importance of saving at a young age. That, combined with my passions for saving and reading, inspired me to write a book for children about making saving a habit. (See Article)

Initially, I asked myself a simple question: If there was only one thing I could share with a person about money that they could immediately act on to make a difference in their lives, what would it be? I decided the most important message I could share was, “Pay yourself first!”
The next challenges were translating the message for kids, creating simple but meaningful sayings they and their parents could repeat, and developing a delivery mechanism everyone would enjoy. (Visit Website)

With the help of others…

…we formed a company called “It’s a Habit!” and invented a children’s character named “Sammy Rabbit” to deliver such messages as: saving is a great habit; from every dollar, save a dime; and save one out of ten, again, again, and again!

We placed the messages in books titled “It’s a Habit, Sammy Rabbit!” and

“Will Sammy Ride the World’s First Space Coaster?” Later we developed songs such as “Get in the Habit,” “Debt Stinks,” “Rainy Day,” “Don’t Spend More Then You Make,” etc. to supplement the books and have another medium to deliver and reinforce the messages introduced in our first two books. (Visit Web Store)

Soon thereafter…

…we began producing live interactive presentations and skits that featured a costumed Sammy Rabbit and myself to emphasize saving, reading, writing, smart choice making and higher education. Currently, we are working on the next phases of development and distribution hoping to make an even larger impact!

So, what are some of the keys and lessons we’ve learned to teaching kids about money?

Here a few tips

Walk the talk — part 1. I do not know if anything is more honest or powerful than leading by example. If you are already doing a good job, keep it up!! If not, read a good book on the subject to start improving your own understanding of personal finance. I recommend “The Way to Wealth,” by Benjamin Franklin and “Raising Money Smart Kids,” by Janet Bodnar.

Walk the talk — part 2. If I could only give a person one piece of advice regarding money, it would be: “pay yourself first.” So, if you are not saving or investing, start now! If you are in credit card debt, start systematically paying it off. Commit yourself to living a debt free life. This will set an excellent example for kids to follow. The web is filled with resources and discussion groups that can help, including MSN Money, CNN Money and Yahoo.

Talk regularly with kids about money. Studies routinely cite lack of communication between parents and children as a common obstacle to raising money literate kids. Take advantage of natural opportunities to involve kids in money related discussions while shopping, budgeting, making lists, recycling, and paying bills. The more responsibility you can appropriately give them for activities, the better. Also be sure to initiate dialogue about dreams, goals, home ownership, investments, etc.

Start early with books and music. Expose children to books and music about money early and often. Naturally, I recommend our books and music. For older kids, I love Chad Foster’s “Financial Literacy for Teens” and David Bach’s “The Automatic Millionaire.”

Instill the habit. Get your child a transparent piggy bank. Better yet, create your own family savings bank. Our family did this when we were kids, using a Sparkletts bottle. We all loved it, and it really promoted discussion about how to use the money once the bottle was full. When the bank is full, take your children to the bank or credit union, start an account and deposit the savings. Review their statements with them regularly.

Affirmations. Provide kids with fun slogans to repeat. Here are a few of Sammy’s favorites: Saving is a great habit! Saving makes me strong! Change adds up! From every dollar, save a dime! Debt Stinks! I am sure you have some of your favorites. Post the slogans around the house or paint them onto your family savings jar.

Allowance. Give your child an opportunity to manage money. Be consistent and supportive. Allow kids to make their own decisions and mistakes within reason. For tips on allowances, check out David McCurrach’s “Allowance Magic.” It is an excellent read.

And Just Remember…

…when working with kids the more participatory and interactive the activity the better. Kids are incredible! Their minds are like sponges. It never ceases to amaze me how they are able to understand seemingly difficult concepts when properly communicated to them. Never, ever, speak down to them!

About Sam X Renick
Sam X Renick is an award winning author, songwriter, trainer, social entrepreneur, and co-creator of the children’s character ‘Sammy, the get in the habit rabbit.’ He is also the founder of The It’s a Habit! Company, Inc., a socially conscious publishing and education company dedicated to helping children and families develop good habits, especially saving money. You can learn more about Sammy, Sam, It’s a Habit! and their mission at