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Raising Money-wise Kids

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Financial Advice for Migrant domestic workers from the team at Enrich HK!

Most domestic workers come to Hong Kong to support their family, and for many of you that includes children. You want to give them the best – after all, that is why you came here in the first place. But sometimes you can’t give them everything they want, and it can be challenging to deal with this while you’re apart.

Of course, it’s a good idea to teach your children the value of money – but where do you begin? Well, we’re here to help! This month we’re looking at how to raise money-wise kids, with some helpful tips for all of you mums and dads, and aunts and uncles who are working abroad.

Discuss the value of money

You feel guilty being away from your children but you don’t know how to tell them that you can’t afford to send money/ gifts all the time, especially right now during the pandemic. What’s the solution?

To begin with, it’s important to maintain regular communication with your children while you’re working abroad. Make sure you have regular discussions with your family about finances, but also remember that the conversation should not always be about money, as this can be stressful on your relationships.

Most importantly, remember that money or gifts do not replace your love.

Children learn from our behaviour. If you keep sending your kids money or gifts, they will learn that it is easy to get things if they ask. If you go on big shopping sprees when you visit home, whether you can afford to or not, they will learn that when you come home it means they can shop more. You can still show your love for them but lead by example and gently educate them about the value of your money.

If your kids are asking for money which you can’t send, or for gifts which are ‘wants’ but not ‘needs,’ be honest about the challenges you are facing. Let them know that although you cannot provide those things, you are still there for them in other ways. You can do this by making an effort to have quality conversations with them, showing an interest in their hobbies, or sending them thoughtful, homemade presents that they can cherish. Get them invested in learning about your future goals so they can see a direct connection between saving money and having you home to be with them sooner.

If your children get upset about not getting what they want, remember to stay calm. Don’t get emotional and don’t simply give in because you want them to be happy – this definitely sends the wrong message. Take a deep breath and try to see their point of view. Understand their reason behind wanting the money or items. If the ‘need’ is real, discuss options. Can you wait until the item goes on sale or find a cheaper alternative? Perhaps you can establish a timeframe to save for it, for example within the next six months.

Make it clear that spending this money has consequences – in order for you to buy a certain item for your child, something will have to be sacrificed. If possible, encourage them to save their pocket money towards the goal as well.

Provide a little pocket money

You want your children to learn how to manage money wisely. Is that realistic? Where do you start? Start as early as you can: Kids aged between three and five years should understand that when something is bought for them, someone has to pay for it. It’s also important for children of that age to understand the importance of ‘waiting’ – that if they want an item, they may not get it immediately. Five to six years is the golden age for learning about financial management – but it’s never too late.

Give pocket money: If you can afford it, give your children a bit of money that is theirs to manage. It doesn’t need to be a big sum, but we recommend providing a fixed amount at a fixed time each month. This will allow them to learn about managing money, and start building good financial habits.

Don’t be afraid to discuss money: There is no need to protect children from financial conversations. They understand more than you think! Talk to them about your goals and savings. Ask how they plan to use their pocket money, and suggest they save a good chunk of it (ideally 80%). When they want to buy something, help them distinguish between ‘needs’ (an item that is essential, such as water) and ‘wants’ (an unnecessary but desirable item, such as a soft drink).

Open a bank account for your children: This will help them feel the responsibility of having money. Make them part of the process by taking them to the bank (or ask their guardians to take them), to create the account and regularly deposit their savings.

Make it a family affair: Get the children’s guardians involved so you can share responsibility. Your partner, parents or siblings can use daily activities as learning opportunities, for example they can encourage the children to help them stick to the weekly grocery budget.

Share your financial education: Until May 31, Enrich is offering online financial education workshops to domestic workers and their families. When a domestic worker enrols, two of her family members can join for free, to learn about budgeting, entrepreneurship and investment. This can build a great family dynamic where you all work together to achieve goals.

Enrich HK is an award-winning Hong Kong charity providing financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers. For a free, confidential one-to-one financial counselling session and to learn about the courses on offer, visit www.enrichhk.org. If you have a question you would like to have answered on this page, email [email protected].

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