Teaching teenagers to save and spend wisely isn’t always easy. But Jerry Witkovsky, author of The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, says grandparents can help.
In fact, Witkovsky has developed a way to help his own grandchildren learn to approach money that requires no more than three simple Mason jars. Your Teen caught up with Witkovsky to learn more.
Tell us about your three jars?
For each of my grandchildren, on their 13th birthday, I presented them with the three jars and explained the significance of each. One jar is for Charity, the next for Spending, and the last for Saving. Then I gave them $15 per month for the next 12 months. It was up to each grandchild to determine how much would go in each jar. That’s the important part, the determination—these are the foundations for values and decisions they will have to make all of their lives.
Often when I speak with grandparents, they ask me, “what will my legacy be?” I always answer “don’t die until you are dead…create a “living legacy.” The three jars (which recently morphed into four, to include a jar for investing) is a way to leave your grandchildren with values, not just valuables.
Giving to others is built into this approach?
Yes, the idea of the Charity Jar is to teach the value of helping, by giving money, friendship or kindness. Some families may keep all of the “year-end request” letters they get this time of year and let their teenagers read and decide, others may help them connect to local charities that match their passion, such as an animal shelter or organization that helps children. But, along with how much will go in this jar, the grandchild decides where it will go—it’s about them connecting to what they believe in.
How about saving for the future? What’s a key message for teenagers?
The value that is taught with the Saving Jar is to learn to value a vision for the future. For a teenager, accustomed to daily responsibilities, the “distant” future might be two months down the road. The value that is taught here is to learn to develop a vision … what do you want or need for the future? Vision is the important word—a vision for a teen may be dreams of a big video game or gift for mom’s birthday, but it is a vision for the future that requires planning and patience.
Recently I’ve added a fourth jar, for Investing. This final jar completes the circle with an element of building for the future and bigger goals, like college or graduate school. It may include their own money, or “chits” representing investments parents (or grandparents) may have made for their education.
And the Spending Jar?
The Spending Jar is to teach happiness. When you have your own money, there’s a sense of independence. The Spending Jar teaches the value that you are responsible for your own happiness. You spend it to please yourself…and that’s okay. It teaches independence.
Why this approach?
The three jars, plus the investment jar, are a wonderful way to instill the values of independence and responsibility, caring and growing. Whether they have chosen to spend, save, give or invest, they are in control. It’s a chance for me as the grandparent to share the values behind the jars, and to talk about why all areas are important, and it’s a chance for them to learn how to manage money, to plan for the future and how they will eventually give back to the world and create their own legacy.
Jerry Witkovsky is the former general director of Chicago’s Jewish Community Centers and the author of The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection. Read more at www.thegrandestlove.com.