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, social-media expert Ted Rubin tells Renick the most important money lesson he learned as a child and shares a tip for teaching kids about money mindsets.

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 what impact it has had on you throughout your life.

Ted Rubin: The most important money lesson I learned as a child was to save. I can recall opening my first bank account with four quarters. My mom and dad encouraged me to add to it every week, and I was made to understand that the majority of that money was not for spending. It was for accumulating. My parents wanted to make certain I always had somewhere to go for money when there was a real need.

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The Most Important Money Lesson to Teach Kids

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

Rubin: I think the most important habit to teach a child about money — and I did my best to impress this on my daughters — is to be very aware of what you have and what you spend.

I want them to make sure to not commit financially to more than they can afford and to always keep track of what they spend.

If they do, they will not be surprised at the end of every month. When I was growing up — and for the better part of my career — this meant keeping weekly records. Now it is easier. A person’s finances are available to them every minute online, so there aren’t any excuses for being caught off-guard.

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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 the “give mes” set in? What does this mean for families, schools, and the financial-education industry?

Rubin: This is about the example you set for your children. It goes well beyond money habits and will affect everything in their lives. Many parents tell their kids, “Do as I say, not as I do.” With my girls, and with others around me, I have always lived by the mantra, “Do as I do.” Create a money mindset and example worthy of emulation.

Discover more about Ted Rubin on his website and on Twitter (@TedRubin).