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Teaching my kids about money

When I was 10 years old, I didn't have a clue about money.

It is very different for my two kids now. Andy is 10 and Amy is eight.

I think they know a lot more about money than I did at their age. In fact, they even make their own money.

No kidding.

I am not talking about getting money from parents or relatives for birthdays and holidays, for good behavior, doing home work or getting good grades. I'm not referring to making money by doing chores at home either.

I'm talking about making real money outside of home by doing real work.

Before you accuse me of child abuse for child labor, let me assure you that this is not the case.

We live in the Eagle Valley neighborhood. Our backyard faces Eagle Valley Golf Course Hole 17. In the past few years we have accumulated some golf balls found on the course.

Two summers ago, I had this idea of my kids selling golf balls in the backyard for several reasons.

I wanted them to learn about money and be financially literate.

I wanted them to understand that money doesn't grow on trees and isn't spit out from the AMT machines by itself. You have to actually work hard to earn money and then you get to spend it.

I wanted to teach them how to divide money for different purposes, how to use money wisely and make good choices, how to save for college and other longterm goals.

I wanted them to get out of the house and have something to do in the long summer days. I don't like to hear them say: "Mom, I am bored. What can I do?"

Both of my kids are not very talkative. Getting out there, talking to strangers and trying to sell something will help them develop some social skills.

Best of all, they can make their own money for some spending. So, we set a small table in our backyard to sell golf balls.

Andy mans the golf stand and does all the talking and selling. Amy helps out sometimes, but she is shy and not so interested in selling.

Our golf stand hours depend on our schedule, the weather and mostly on Andy's mood. He will do it if he wants to. So it is totally irregular.

Like every business, Andy's golf stand has good days and bad days. He might not make any money on one day or make enough to buy a game on another day.

I taught my kids to divide their money into four envelopes: 50 percent for college fund, 20 percent for savings account, 20 percent for spending and 10 percent for giving.

For their birthdays or special holidays, I usually don't buy them toys. Instead, I give them money.

Andy and Amy are good at saving now. Sometimes they ask me: "Mom, can you put my money into my bank account?"

I opened a college savings account for each one of them when they were born. Two years ago, they each opened a savings and a checking account.

Last year, they used their checking account to pay for their own field trips and yearbooks. Sometimes I ask them to contribute towards some purchases, such as school pictures. I think they are proud to be able to pay for their own wants.

Andy is saving his spending money to buy a Lego set.

I teach Andy and Amy not to be impulsive spenders. They always want to buy something when they go to stores with me. I often say no to their requests. They have to get my permission to buy even with their own spending money.

Sometimes I do let them buy a small item impulsively. It is better to allow them to make small foolish choices now than making big foolish choices later in life.

I think my kids are also learning about disappointment, success, generosity and other experiences in life.

Andy is disappointed when he doesn't make any money. He says, "I don't want to sell any more. No one is buying."

But he is also excited when he makes a good deal and gets extra money.

Some people give him a tip. A few told him: "Keep the change for your college!"

I remember one gentleman gave Andy $5 as a tip. Recently, another gentleman gave him $5 without even buying anything.

Occasions like these are rare, but memorable.

These people are so generous. I am very thankful for their encouragement and generosity towards the kids. I wish I could say a personal thank-you to them.

It has been fun for me to watch my kids work and make money.

Actually, I don't just watch, I have to work, too. I help them find and wash golf balls. The washing part is often the real hard and dirty work.

Hopefully my kids have learned and now understand that money doesn't come easily. You have to work hard to get it.