Today, just one-third of U.S. states require that students take basic financial literacy classes so they can graduate from high school. Despite this, many adults learn how to make and follow a budget the old-fashioned way — through trial and error. So it’s not surprising that many parents worry their kids might struggle to manage their own money someday. With the right age-appropriate resources, teaching kids basic financial literacy concepts can be easier than you might think.
Start Teaching Basic Financial Literacy Concepts While They’re Little
Once you’ve got your dollars and cents ducks all in a row, it’s time to think of your ducklings. Set aside time to educate your kids while they’re still relatively small, and it’ll pay major dividends down the road. Starting basic financial literacy lessons when they’re little can help them avoid costly financial mistakes or missteps in early adulthood. But that doesn’t mean you have to talk about the finer points of financial planning at the dinner table. Instead, weave some lessons about money into your family’s daily activities to make it feel more natural to kids. In fact, reading bedtime stories to your kids each night is one of the best possible ways to approach it.
Children’s Books That Sneak Basic Financial Literacy Lessons Into Their Storylines
First, you’ll need to grab some books that impart the right messages and lessons in an entertaining and age-appropriate way. Below are five excellent fiction books that sneak in basic financial literacy lessons for kids:
1. If You Made a Million by David M. Schwartz (ages 4+)
This book teaches kids all about saving, earning, investing and dividends. Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician explains the nuts and bolts — as well as the mystery and wonder — of earning money, investing it, accruing dividends and interest, and watching savings grow. If You Made a Million also received the following children’s book honors:
- ALA Notable Book
- Horn Book Fanfare Selection
- School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- Teachers’ Choices Selection
2. A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (ages 3+)
Williams’ book teaches kids about earning money and saving it for a goal purchase later on. This heartwarming story about the values of saving and working together towards a common goal features beautiful folk-art inspired paintings.
3. Annie’s Adventures by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (ages 6-9)
Notably, this is the first book in the popular “Sisters 8” series. It walks readers through grown-up tasks — including paying bills and budgeting — after the sisters’ parents disappear.
4. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (ages 7-10)
This classic and widely-read story sneaks a lot of valuable lessons into one fun storyline. The book defines common money terms, illustrates math problems, and uses engaging, kid-friendly charts and diagrams to teach its lessons. With just five days left of summer vacation, siblings Evan and Jessie launch an all-out war to see who can sell the most lemonade before school starts. With a clever blend of humor, math wizardry, and business know-how, it captures the bond between brother and sister many kids will relate to. The story also pulls the curtain back on what it means to run a real business. USA Today called it a “good read for young capitalists.”
5. When Times Are Tough by Yanitzia Canetti (ages 5-8)
Canetti’s book teaches kids about coping with financial hardships, including the difference between needs and wants. When times are tough, it’s often difficult for children to understand why things must change. This story follows a fictional family that faces very real economic challenges. In the end, it shows how they are able to overcome each obstacle together.
Stories That Feature Financial Literacy Lessons Can Teach Adults Something, Too
Talking to your kids about money in a straightforward and helpful manner may feel awkward (or even uncomfortable). But it’s important to push past your own financial hang-ups and help your children grow into empowered, financially savvy adults. These books are a great way to help even your youngest child start learning some basic financial literacy skills!