“If there is one specific request or plea I would have made when I was young, it would have been: “Help nurture and create in us a money savvy youth, South Africa.” The concept of money is a fundamental skill that any adult, parent, guardian, family member or teacher can help teach and provide to our young people. It not only offers a win-win situation for young people and their future financial decision-making, but it is also a win for the economy and prosperity of South Africa,” emphasizes Carla Oberholzer (debt advisor at DebtSafe)
Oberholzer encourages adults to help raise a generation of money-savvy youth, and the key is to “catch them young.” By starting early, adults can help young people acquire the knowledge, practices skills, and the confidence to make informed future financial decisions. Now is a good time to start the empowerment process – adults need to start talking to kids about money, make the concept of money tangible, and help young people learn about money.
DebtSafeThe team at has compiled an age-by-age guide that offers adults (including young adults) ideas on what to include in their youth-focused financial teachings:
TODDLERS (2-3 years) –
Creative and educational learning and “pretend”…
Parents/guardians/teachers can incorporate creative, smart money learning and easy, fun ways to pretend to introduce the concept of money/finances to TODDLERS (2-3 years old). Here are some suggestions for them:
- Toddlers can start learning to tell the difference between the names of coins (cents) and bills (Rand) – adults can play a “color game” and let kids learn about money. **Note: This type of game requires supervision when playing with fake/real money, especially with R1, R2, R5 or 10c, 20c and 50c coins.
- Toddlers can begin to understand the basics of “trade” by exchanging money/play money for goods. “Shopping at Home” is fun and educational.
PRESCHOOLERS (3-5 years old) –
Imaginary games and activities related to chores (allowance/pocket money)…
Adults are encouraged to allow PRESCHOOL ELEMENTS (ages 3-5) to participate in lessons and economic educational activities:
- Imaginary play initiatives such as “restaurant” or “grocery store” can incorporate skills such as learning good manners and making change as a cashier.
- Doing chores for spending money provides educational moments. And don’t forget the tangible concept of what saving through a piggy bank can teach a preschooler.
By incorporating the examples above, preschoolers can begin to grasp the “concept of money” and reach a basic understanding that there are “bills” to pay.
STUDENTS (6-12 years old) –
Comparative lessons and presentation of “monetary tools”…
There are several things that parents/guardians can do to improve the financial awareness and skills of GRADESCHOOLERS (6-12 years old), for example:
- Open a children’s bank account: Various South African banks offer these accounts and include FREE service fees (R0.00) PLUS rewards designed specifically for children.
- Comparative shopping: Kids can go on educational shopping trips to spot discounts and compare prices of generic versus branded products.
TEENS (12-18 years old) –
The value of budgeting and the gift of giving…
Believe it or not, parents can teach TEENS (12-18) some “financial ropes” to help them become savvy stewards. Here are some considerations:
- Pocket money/allowance can quickly disappear for teenagers between lunch money, school supplies and other small needs. Parents are encouraged to help their children budget and explain the difference between “a want” and “a need”.
- There are also various banking/phone apps for kids that parents/guardians can incorporate into discussions/learning activities. They can also use available programs, such as “MoneyTime‘ Where ‘star saver‘, which can help them teach various financial skills.
- There is nothing better to explain the concept of money than to also give to charity (adults can let their children choose the organizations to which they would like to contribute). “A financial lesson through a corporate responsibility initiative provides teachable moments and is a long-term investment in ‘financial behavior’ for any teen,” emphasizes Oberholzer.
YOUNG ADULTS (18-30 years old) –
Various disciplines can set a young adult to gain financial freedom…
DebtSafe wants to encourage South Africa young adults to continue in money-saving ways, whether they learned the principles of money from an early age or not. Here are some things to consider:
- Budgeting is a must. They can use various tools to suit their personality.
- They must distinguish between real “needs” and “clear wants”.
- Why the pressure? Young, working adults can start small when taking on credit or debt — there’s no need to buy a lavish house and car all at once.
- Wealth, contingency planning & investments in health are crucial – professionals can help with medical and financial products (like an emergency fund or a retirement plan).
- Young people should regularly monitor their debt and have a plan developed to incorporate short- or long-term goals and savings into their budget.
Money plays a vital role in the life of every individual. And so it also deserves substantial attention from a young and young age. Learning to save, budgeting and taking responsibility for debt are skills that young people should integrate and learn early in life. Money teachings will allow young people to experience the gift of financial freedom. DebtSafe commemorates adults such as parents, guardians and teachers with this inevitable and imperative task.
Carla Oberholzer is a debt advisor at DebtSafe.