This special series is 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, Cary J. Green, Ph.D. — the author of Success Skills for High School, College, and Career — tells Renick a money lesson he learned as a child and shares advice for teaching kids about money.

A Childhood Money Lesson

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 tell us about the impact it has had on you throughout your life.

Cary J. Green: My dad impressed on me at a young age the importance of saving something from each paycheck. At that time, I didn’t have a paycheck, but I got in the habit of saving something each time I received some money.

Unfortunately, my dad passed away at a young age. His savings habit, however, allowed him to provide for his heirs.

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Now that I have a daughter, I’m passing on this age-old piece of advice. I encourage parents to share it with their kids. And I also encourage young parents to save something, no matter how modest. This habit will pay future benefits.

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.

Green: As I mentioned, I’m teaching my daughter to save something from the money she receives. Although she’s in elementary school, when I recently asked what she was going to do with some of her birthday gift money, she said, “Probably save some for college.”

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 those habits are formed earlier, perhaps around the age the “give mes” set in? What does this mean for families, schools, and the financial education industry?

Green: I think we can teach our children, regardless of their age, important skills by actively talking about them. We can model the behavior we want to develop in our children. We need to deliberately equip them with skills to succeed financially as well as in other aspects of life.

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We can commend our children when they display the skills we want them to develop; and we can nudge them and encourage them as needed.

Make a savings deposit toward one of your goals.

Discover more about Cary J. Green, Ph.D. at his LinkedIn.