One out of three Canadian families is living pay cheque to pay cheque.

Household debt is at its highest and Canadians are being bombarded by warnings from the government about the risks of over-spending. Are you sure that you can pass along the most up-to-date and effective financial lessons to your children? Or, perhaps you would prefer that your children not know about your family’s financial status? Whatever your financial situation, children need the tools to navigate an unstable economy, and hopefully avoid some of our own financial mistakes.

For the past four years, Laura Battisti has been teaching a financial literacy workshop adapted for grade 5-6 students, as well as one geared for high school students. The primary objective of these workshops is to instill in these eager minds a basic understanding of money, budgeting, credit and savings. She also provides insights as to how financial institutions can assist students in promoting proper saving and investing habits.

Laura Battisti

As a financial specialist with a financial planning designation and 17 years of banking experience, Laura has plenty of advice, suggestions, and knowledge concerning family finances and the ins-and-outs of banking. One of the reasons Laura was motivated to create these workshops was seeing her own two sons showing a need to learn the value of money at the age of five. In addition, working in a financial institution Laura sees students in their early 20s coming in with mounds of debt. This is why Laura feels that it is never too early to start teaching children about money since it is so hard to get out of debt once you are in it.

Students and Debt

Laura sees the line of credit as the worst culprit for household debt. She also does not agree with the practice of credit card booths setting up in the Fall in cegeps, luring students to sign up through rewards and gifts. She also considers spending beyond one’s means as a popular habit among parents that can easily be passed onto their children. Laura states that a child’s financial habits are already formed by the age of 13.

To Discuss or Not Discuss?

Laura believes that parents should try to discuss their family finances with their children to a certain extent. As Laura recognizes, we tend to overlook including our children in our financial discussions since we are so used to providing for our children unconditionally and without asking questions. Laura suggests that another reason parents may chose not to talk to their children about finances is that there are some parents who are just not equipped to educate their children on this subject.Parents who do try to teach their children about finances tend to focus more on savings and not the dangers of credit card use and debt. When it comes to parents being up front about their financial situation, Laura recommends that parents avoid showing the whole picture. Parents should share their financial status to a certain extent, especially if a child notices that friends have more possessions. A child will compare himself to classmates, so parents should be prepared to explain the real reasons why he/she can’t have the same amount of toys as their friend. Laura feels that by making children aware of the family’s financial limitations, they will be more aware of their own financial responsibility.

Laura’s Tips on Getting Started

1. The grocery store is an ideal way to get children involved in financial responsibility and transactions.

2. In addition, parents can start off by opening a savings account for their child. Parents/grandparents put money in the account, which gives children a sense of responsibility for their money and children get to experience saving for something they really want.

3. Involving children means being hands-on. Bring the children to bank to open an account. Let them use a bank machine and encourage them to watch their money grow by looking at their bank-book. For these reasons, Laura recommends avoiding banks that are only online.

4. Read books that present age-related subjects on finances. Laura recommends, A Parent's Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids by Robin Taub.

Laura’s Talking Cent$ Workshops:

Laura’s workshops focus on financial terms, case studies, budgeting, examples of bank accounts, wants versus needs, credit, assets, and depending on the child’s age- stocks and currency. The workshop features humourous videos that allow the kids to relate to the material. Her workshops are interactive and hands-on; for example children participate in financial soccer games.

Laura stresses how students are not offered anything like this in their school curriculum. As Laura points out, children need to learn the nut and bolts before the entrepreneurship aspect of finances, which a lot of students are interested in because of the media and tv shows like Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice, etc. Laura’s workshops provide children with the basics of finances first before moving into more complex areas. Laura’s workshops are tailored to various ages, according to maturity, interests, and level of responsibility.

Her workshops are geared to children in grades 5-6, junior high (secondary 1 & 2), and senior high (secondary 4 & 5, who are perhaps preparing for summer jobs and saving for college). The 3-hour interactive informative workshop is presented over 3 days.Laura’s Talking Cent$ workshops are available for presentations in schools and can be integrated into a class or after school.

Principals, Governing Boards, Teachers and Parents can visit Laura’s Talking Cent$ website at: www.laurastalkingcents.ca and/or reach Laura Battisti at: laurabattisti@sympatico.ca or by phone: (514) 794-0848