Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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economicsFinancial Literacy for Families

Talking to kids about money pays off

April 2024 | From the Desk of Glenn Hegar

Comptroller Glenn Hegar shares a reading about financial literacy with a group of Texas schoolchildren.

April is National Financial Literacy Month, providing the perfect opportunity to focus on the knowledge and skills needed to make better-informed financial decisions that affect you and your family.

Teaching children about money is an important investment in their secure future, and it can start at any age. Research shows adults with good financial skills learned about handling money as children. Discussing buying decisions and reading books about saving and spending are great ways to get the conversation going.

I serve as Texas' chief financial officer, but I’m also the father of three teenagers, including one in college. I understand that providing children with opportunities to develop their financial skills will help them prepare to meet life’s challenges.

I recently was asked about my approach to teaching financial skills to my own children. I’d like to share a bit of that conversation:

What are some things you and your wife did to instill foundational financial literacy in your children?

It’s important to look for the teaching moments. For example, our routine is to make school lunches the night before, and one day, when our children were in elementary school, we asked what they wanted for lunch. Our son reminded us they were going on a field trip and being provided Chick-fil-A for free! Now, that was a teaching moment — nothing is for free. Mom and Dad have already paid for those lunches.

When our oldest turned 16 and was able to drive, I sat down with her and went through the costs of having a car such as gas, insurance, new tires, unexpected maintenance and the decreasing value of a car over the years. We try to use these cornerstone moments to instill the foundation of financial literacy.

Something that my wife and I did early on was freeze our children’s credit with the three credit score entities to help prevent criminals from stealing their identity and ruining their credit.

Do you have any tips for explaining budgeting concepts to kids?

Once again, look for the teaching moments. When my kids were young, my wife would give them each $5 to buy Christmas presents for their siblings at the elementary school store. They learned that you can go small, go big or think of what the person actually needs compared to what they want. When shopping for school, my wife would explain they could get the more expensive item they preferred or go with the next preference and get more items. That set the tone for our children in attempting to get the most for what they had to spend. 

What financial advice did you give your daughter when she went to college?

In the years before college, we talked about costs including tuition, books, housing, utilities, food and entertainment — instilling the understanding that some items are necessities and others are discretionary. You can get that $5 to $10 coffee every day, or you can make yourself coffee and have the savings for another discretionary item. We explained that it is important to treat yourself for hard work, yet also think longer term.

It's never too early to begin sharing financial knowledge with kids. By finding the teaching moments, we empower our children and create a healthier economic future for us all.