Bonnie M. Harvey money lessons
Bonnie M. Harvey

This special series is a part of CentSai’s commitment to financial literacy at every level. We’re collaborating with financial education advocate Sam X Renick on a series of short interviews, videos, and tips. In this installment, Barefoot Wine co-founder and New York Times best-selling author Bonnie M. Harvey tells Renick a money lesson from her childhood and shares advice for teaching kids about money.

Childhood Money Lessons

Sam X Renick: What is the most important money habit you learned as a child? Briefly share the story of how you learned the habit and what impact it has had on you throughout your life.

Bonnie Harvey: My parents did not discuss finances with my siblings or me. However, we knew it was in short supply. I babysat for extra money, and I generally saved it. So when my adult sister asked to borrow money from me, I always gave her what I had. But it took me several years to come to face the fact she had never paid back any of the funds she had borrowed over the years.

It was a lesson learned: Don’t lend money to people unless you are willing to never see it again.

If you loan money to friends and family, you can spoil the relationship if you bring up the topic.

The Most Important Money Lesson to Teach Kids

Renick: If you could teach a child only one money habit, what would it be? Briefly explain why.

Harvey: Money is “my own natural energy yield.” It is what is exchanged for the products or services you give others. Money is not something you should aspire to have because it has no value until it is spent on something.

Why Do Parents Struggle With Teaching Kids About Money?

Renick: A variety of surveys indicate it is a challenge for parents to talk to kids about money. What would you say are one or two of the primary reasons that parents find it difficult to talk about personal finance with their children? And if you have a suggestion on how they can overcome the obstacle, please share that, as well.

Harvey: I don’t have children, but friends I have talked with have some great ideas. Children can earn their allowance by participating in household chores. It may be in actual cash, but at a younger age, it may be better to give them “points” or some other way of keeping track. Then when they want to “buy” something, parents can use this as an opportunity to discuss the value of money in exchange for labor.

Teaching Personal Finance in Schools

Renick: Why do you believe there is not more personal finance being taught in schools?

Harvey: It is essential that personal finance be taught in school. I don’t know why it is not. The answer may be found deep in our educational system. But not learning about personal finance will keep people ignorant on the subject and cause them to spend more than they earn, which puts them and our country in financial jeopardy.

A Final Thought: What If the Research Is Wrong?

Renick: Cambridge University research indicates that adult money habits are set by age seven. What if the research is wrong and adult money habits are formed earlier — perhaps around the age that the “give mes” set in? What does this mean for families, schools, and the financial education industry?

Harvey: From the examples I have personally seen, I believe that it begins at “give me” and “I want” stages. With these demands coming from children, it opens the door for parents to discuss the value of money and how one earns it. This means loads of work needs to be done! And we must start much earlier than we may have previously thought!

Take Action

Talk with your kids about one great money habit!

Discover more about Bonnie Harvey at the Barefoot Spirit.