Oregon Healthy Living interviewed John Lanza of Los Angeles, creator of “The Money Mammals” a DVD that teaches children to save, share and spend wisely. Lanza and the Rogue Federal Credit Union developed a kids’ savings club for credit unions. Learn more at rfcu.org or on Lanza’s blog http://youngkidsandmoney.blogspot.com

OHL: You write on your blog about the importance of teaching children the difference in need and want. How do you define need and want and how should parents teach this concept to children?

JL: Needs are items that you have to have, like food, shelter and clothing, and wants are things that you’d like to have, like videogames, candy and cell phones. Certain situations can flip a want into a need. For example, you may want a new basketball just because your old one is a little tattered; you may not need one. But if you’re going to go play basketball, you certainly need a ball to do so. I think it’s incredibly important for parents to make sure they use the terms needs and wants correctly, particularly around their kids. As we all know, kids do what we do. Once I started really paying attention to my own use of these terms, I noticed that I used them incorrectly. I was able to alter my own behavior and I’ve seen my improved use of the terms have an impact on my 4-year-old. She often points out to my 2-year-old the difference between needs and wants now.

OHL: What about parents of teenagers who failed to teach good financial habits when their children were younger. Any hope for them?
JL: There is always hope. We really focus on pre-teens, but one resource for teenagers is Creative Wealth International’s Money Camps. The website is www.creativewealthintl.org

OHL: When it comes to family budgeting, how much should parents involve children in establishing budget amounts? What if a family attempts to start a budget when their children are in the teen years. Is it possible?
JL: If you are going to give your child an allowance – which I recommend – make sure they understand what they are responsible to purchase. It’s always best to start early, but starting at any point is a good idea. The idea behind an allowance is ultimately to allow kids to learn about the value of money and make mistakes now when the stakes are much lower.

OHL: Why is it important to teach children to give to charities? How do you teach children to choose charities wisely?
JL: I think it’s good for children to learn to share their money and we do that in our household by breaking up allowances into three parts using separate jars – some for sharing, some for saving and some for spending smart. How much you allocate to each jar on allowance day is up to you. A good resource for establishing an allowance is David McCurrach’s Allowance Magic. We currently give our 4-year-old $3 and require that she put 50 cents into the share jar, 50 cents into the save jar and the rest is up to her. When she accumulates a few dollars in her share jar, she can bring it into church and feel a sense of accomplishment. As a family, we tend to give to causes that have affected us personally, such as The National Parkinson’s Foundation.