All parents think about money and try to plan for their child’s future. They hope their child will have enough for a full life. Many hope that their children will learn how to use and save money as they grow up so they can do more on their own.
For parents of children with disabilities and special health-care needs, it may be hard to see how to get there. But there are ways to teach your child about money. With your help, it’s something that your child can practice in a way that matches their abilities and goals.
On this page, we have some tips and tools for you. There is always more to learn about managing money. We hope that you find some ideas here to help you and your child get started.
Why Money, Budgets, and Finances Are Important
Just like housing and careers, money can be an important part of the transition to adulthood. It can help your child build their independence. This means that they’re learning how to do more and more things on their own. They’ll need money for rent, insurance, groceries, or to buy something special. Managing money can also make your child feel proud.
No one is born knowing about money. Everyone has a lot to learn when using it. There’s math and social skills. There’s also planning ahead and making decisions. It takes time and practice. And everyone makes mistakes with money. Mistakes help us learn what to do differently next time. So it’s a good idea to start talking to your child early about money. Just like you start teaching them other life skills when they’re young. And keep talking about money as they practice using it.
Depending on your child’s abilities, here are some basics that you can teach them about:
- What money physically looks like and its value.
- How spending and earning money work (for example stores, bills, jobs, etc.).
- Needs versus wants (like paying for groceries and rent or buying a special treat).
- How budgets and basic money math work, including how to balance a budget.
- What credit is and how to protect it.
- How banks, savings, loans, and debt work.
- How to keep money and credit information private – and why that’s important.
Lessons and Games
Lessons and games are a great way to teach your child about money and practice for real life.
If your child is in school, they might have a chance to learn about money there. Many Texas public high schools offer a class about managing money (usually called “financial literacy”). And some teachers might give lessons on money math.
Talking about money goals in adult life is also an important topic for your child’s transition planning. And their transition out of public school. Career or job training programs might also include money lessons. These could be in school or in the community.
Here is a list of games and lessons that you and your child can try at home. Some of them are video-game style. Some are simple computer games. And some have worksheets or videos and things to read. Look for one that matches your child’s abilities and learning style.
- MyMoney.gov has simple games, tools, and information.
- Practical Money Skills has games like Financial Football and others. Look at their “Play” menu.
- Gen i Revolution is like a video game online. Your child can play against others.
- You can also play board games with your child like Life, Monopoly, Payday, Budget Town, and Budget City.
- The Mint has tips about money for kids, teens, and parents.
- FDIC’s Money Smart Program has lessons and information for people with lower incomes. They have materials to download for young people and for adults. You can get the whole program or just the topics you need.
- National Disability Institute has an online classroom. And a list of financial wellness links.
- National Education Agency has lessons to download about money for teachers. (Parents can use them too.)
Tips and Tools
There are also things you can try with your child at home or in the community. What you decide to do and where you start depends on your child’s abilities. That is something you know best of all.
To teach your child money basics, you can:
- Start by explaining what money is. Point out real-life examples. Maybe ask them to watch you at a store or bank. They might notice price tags, look at bills, or count change. Some children, like children with autism, might have a hard time with the idea of money at first. To them, it just looks like a piece of paper or metal or a plastic card.
- Let them pay at the register at the grocery store. Give the money. Talk to the cashier. Wait for change, count it, and put it away. You might want to role play (practice) at home before you go so they feel ready.
- Talk about how money might be connected to their life. Instead of trying to teach them a lot at once, focus on their goals and costs right now.
- Show them how you keep your wallet and money information private and safe. Explain why. If they have their own money, help them do the same.
To help your child practice managing money at home, you can:
- Give them chances to earn money. They might help out around the house or do a certain thing. Having real money makes learning more exciting.
- Help them divide their money into savings and spending. You can use something they can see like money jars. One jar can be for spending now. One for short-term savings. And one for longer savings.
- Work with them to manage a small project on their own when they’re ready. This might be planning for a special meal or saving for something they really want. Talk it through and maybe give reminders along the way to see how it’s going.
If your child has money or is ready to earn some at a job, you can:
- Look at tools together that help your child make decisions and plans. Texas Workforce Commission has a Reality Check tool. It lets you figure out how much money you need for your future in your city or town in Texas. Jump$tart’s Reality Check tool has only 10 questions. The answers come from on national averages.
- Show them a simple budget of yours. Keep looking back at it with them as money goes in and out.
- Help them make their own budget document. It can include their basic needs and savings goals. Talk to your child about their goals and how money can help.
- Teach them what to expect with money at a job. This might mean showing them how taxes work on their pay stubs. Or role playing for how they might negotiate (ask for) a raise or certain pay.
- Make rules about who pays for what at home. A chart that everyone can see helps to keep track.
- Help them open a bank account or credit card and use it. Look at their bank statements or credit scores with them. There is something called an ABLE savings account just for people with disabilities and their families.
When your child turns 18 year old, they might still want or need your help with their money. See our page on important legal tools. It includes ways that your child can save money and still keep their benefits.
If your child makes a mistake with money along the way, it’s a teaching moment. Stop and talk to them to be sure they understand what happened. If you need to, help them fix it. Or they can show you what they’ll do the next time. And give them reminders about money basics as much as needed.
There is a lot to think about with your child and money. But, it may be possible for your child to have more financial independence. Just like with everything else, you and your child can do this one step at a time. Remember that you are helping them build their life skills. And their confidence to work toward their goals.