Functional Money Skills

Remember when we were little, and we thought nickels were worth more than dimes, just because they were bigger? Ah, those were the days. As part of adulting, we need to teach our kids practical money skills.

Money as a topic usually falls under functional math. However, for kids with IEPs, it is also an independent living skill. Or a set of skills.

father teaching his son functional money skills

Debt is a huge problem.

I feel obligated to at least mention some debt statistics.

Because I truly believe that Generation X, in which I grew up, were not taught adequate money skills as youth. Then, our coming of age was in the era of pretty much unlimited access to credit cards. Is it any wonder we have the debt problems we do? We did not receive an adequate financial education as Gen Xers.

  • Two in ten adults say they roll over $2,500 or more a month in credit card debt [Source: NFCC]
  • Average loans per student equal approximately $76,468 (total student loans/total students enrolled in public or private universities in 2018)*
  • The typical American household now carries an average debt of $137,063. The median debt was only $50,971 in 2000.

Teaching Money to Kids

I don’t know about you, but every time I have to do a cash transaction, I have to stop and get cash. So seldom do I have it in my purse. I mean, unless you’re in a profession that regularly accepts cash as payment, who has it handy?

No one. We all use Paypal and Venmo and CashApp and debit cards and now….crypto! We all still need money skills, but how we teach them and what money skills our kids need to live in today’s society have changed dramatically.

I’m not suggesting that we stop teaching kids about coins and dollars and making change. Sure, that’s a useful skill. But too often, that is the beginning and the end when it comes to money skills for kids.

When I was in junior high school (leaning on my cane), we were issued mock checkbooks and ledgers and we had to do the whole checkbook thing for over a semester.

Now, who balances a checkbook? I don’t think I’ve done that in over 20 years.

Foundation Money Skills for Kids

Before moving on to these more modern money skills, you want to make sure that your child has the foundational skills to successfully manage money. Our kids may be impulsive or lack executive functioning proficiency. These are just two examples of things that may put them at risk for poor money management.

  1. Visualize value; for example have a ballpark idea of what is more–$5 or $500 or $50,000 and what you might possibly be able to buy with each amount.
  2. Make sure that all dyscalculia or other learning disabilities are addressed and accommodated.
  3. Social awareness so as not to be taken advantage of. Yes, I have had clients who literally gave their money away so people would be their friend. Sad, but our kids are targets.
  4. Understand the concept of money and what it means in society; how we get it and how we spend it. Why do we have or need money?
  5. If a child lacks impulse control, put stop gap measures on things like big expenditures.
  6. Make sure your child can monitor and maintain personal possessions like a wallet, atm card or actual money. If your child loses their belongings frequently, don’t be surprised when they lose a wallet, and then punish them for lacking a skill set.

Teaching Money Skills

My parents were horrible at teaching money skills. They randomly yelled out abstract concepts at me, like “Save your money!” and “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” But, they never taught me any specifics.

I also grew up in a household where money was an “adult topic” and I was never included in conversations. Then all of a sudden, I suppose, we’re just supposed to wake up one day and know what to do.

I’m working very hard to change the conversation and climate in my household and we include the boys in conversations. At holidays, when they receive gift cards, it’s a great opportunity to practice money skills and transactions. Brian also has an allowance to manage.

Now that he’s 10, we’re adding some specifics to his allowance and moving to an envelope system. I also opened up a bank account for him so that he could practice ‘going to the bank’ but I’m starting to wonder if that’s outdated.

His generation won’t go to the bank.

Modern Money IEP Goals

These are some skills that a student would benefit from knowing how to do, in today’s society. As always, put the skill in the IEP Goal Formula to make it measurable.

  1. Own, maintain and use an ATM card. Subsets of this skill would be to identify what one is and what it does, and work up from there.
  2. Identify, talk about, describe, exhibit money security and safety skills; for example keeping a password safe, log in information safe and so on; keeping an atm card safe, keeping their phone safe and password protected.
  3. Be able to use a bank website for personal banking. Subsets would be an app for personal banking, and the various components of the app or website, log in, knowing the features, what they do, how to work them, etc.
  4. Understand, explain and monitor direct deposit of money or paycheck.
  5. Understand, explain, exhibit skills in knowing how much money you have in your account and how to NOT overdraw it. This doesn’t necessarily mean the archaic way of balancing a checkbook, but something should be in place.
  6. Understand, explain, exhibit how money goes into and out of their account, and prioritizing expenditures.
  7. Cash apps such as Venmo and CashApp–if necessary, explain, use, keep safe.
  8. Know difference between credit and debit cards, know what interest is and how/why they pay it.
  9. Keeping credit/debit card information saved online, either on websites or apps; know what this is, what they are at risk for if compromised, safe activity.
  10. Know what an ATM is, how it works, how to safely use one.
  11. Understand what gift cards or gift certificates are, how they are similar to credit/debit cards, and how the money is gone if you lose them; how to use them safely and securely.
  12. Crypto or Bitcoin–hey, if you want to go there….go there! (and no, I have no idea where you would find someone to teach this to your child)
  13. Understand what a digital vs paper receipt is; what receipts are, why you might need to save one and how long.
  14. How to pay bills online, safely and securely
  15. Identify and explain what to do if they think any of their financial information has been compromised

Adding Money Skills to your IEP

Like anything else, IEP goals are based on needs. So, if you want a money skills IEP goal, make sure that the skill deficit is noted in IEP Present Levels. And, like everything else, you make note of this in your Parent Concerns letter and push the issue if the team doesn’t add it.

I realize that the IEP Money Goals listed below are not in a measurable format. To do that, just insert the skill into the IEP Goal Formula below.

IEP goal formula for special education

IEP Goals for Functional Money Skills

Honestly, regardless of whether or not your child has a 504 or IEP, I think that these are valuable life goals for any kid. I can only imagine how much further along I’d be if I’d had this!

  1. Identify various currency and its value.
  2. Add and subtract currency when given some.
  3. Make change in various scenarios.
  4. Identify what is a financial necessity in life and what is not.
  5. Compile a budget at all levels, from a $25 gift card they have to spend, to a monthly income allowance.
  6. Know and describe the difference between a credit card, debit card, check card, check and gift card.
  7. Be able to comparison shop for different product categories.
  8. How to pay a bill.
  9. How to write a check and record it in the checkbook.
  10. online banking as appropriate.
  11. Explain the concept of interest–both earning and paying.
  12. Have/explain safe places to keep money and why.
  13. Explain the relationship between cash, checks and bank accounts.
  14. Show restraint and be able to successfully save money; achieve savings goal.
  15. Identify which support works best for student (calculator, phone, etc).
  16. Identify and name coins: penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half-dollar.
  17. Identify the money symbols: cent sign, dollar sign, and decimal point.
  18. Convert one denomination of coins into another denomination (e.g., five pennies equal one nickel).
  19. When making purchases, determine that coins received as change are the correct amount.
  20. Identify and name 1, 5, and 10-dollar bills.
  21. Use currency when making purchases.
  22. Use a combination of coins and currency when making purchases and verify any change received.
  23. Given a variety of coins, STUDENT will identify and name the value of a penny, nickel, and dime with 100% accuracy 5/5 trials.
  24. Given a variety of coins and bills, STUDENT will identify the correct names and amounts with 100% accuracy 4/5 trials.
  25. When working with money, STUDENT will use the $, cent and decimal point appropriately with 80% accuracy 4/5 trials.
  26. Given a collection of coins, STUDENT will count money with 80% accuracy in 4/5 trials.
  27. Given a collection of dollar bills and coins, STUDENT will compare with 80% accuracy 4/5 trials.
  28. Given a variety of coins and bills, STUDENT will add and subtract given amounts with 80% accuracy 4/5 trials.
  29. Given a collection of dollar bills and coins, STUDENT will multiply and divide the money with 80% accuracy 4/5 trials.
  30. When presented with coins, STUDENT will identify the penny, nickel and dime 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.
  31. When given a group of dollars and coins, STUDENT will sort according to the value 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.
  32. When presented with a paycheck, STUDENT will sign in the correct area 5 out of 5 trials with 100% accuracy.
  33. When withdrawing and depositing money, STUDENT will use the correct operation in their checkbook registration 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.
  34. When given a variety of coins, STUDENT will count different values 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.
  35. When given a calculator, STUDENT will add and subtract money amounts 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.
  36. When provided money, STUDENT will purchase items from a vending machine 5 out of 5 trials with 100% accuracy.
  37. When given a price, STUDENT will use the “dollar up” method to determine the amount of money need to purchase the item 4 out of 5 trials with 80% accuracy.

How to Teach Money Skills to Kids

Most kids will receive instruction at school, usually as a part of a math course. However, this is an area where the parent likely has more opportunities for practice and in different settings.

  1. Books
  2. Videos-look on YouTube or Sesame Street
  3. Pretend Play-store, restaurant
  4. Social Stories
  5. Direct Instruction
  6. Board Games
  7. Fantasy Football Leagues are great for Executive Functioning
  8. Lemonade stands or other fundraisers
  9. Some banks offer videos and programs for kids.
  10. Practice, Practice, Practice!