Six Reasons for Kids to Give Away Money

By: Gene Roehlkepartain, Guest Blogger

Whenever I have a chance, I tell parents, teachers, grandparents, and other adults that they should encourage children and teens to give money to charities, religious organizations, and other causes they care about.

Most of the time, I get puzzled looks. Why ask kids to give? Shouldn’t they be saving for college? Isn’t that just taking money from their parents? What if they don’t really have any money?

So as we approach this season of giving, here are six great reasons why it’s important to help our kids learn to give away money.

  1. Many kids do have money. The 20 million U.S. teens aged 12-17 spend more than $200 billion each year on themselves—mostly on things they want but may not really need. Yet only about 4 out of 10 youth give any money to charities (compared to 7 out of 10 adults).
  2. Everyone can give. Giving isn’t just for people who have a lot of money. In fact, people with lower incomes are often the most generous. One study found that people earning between $20,000 and $30,000 gave $1,207 (or 4.8 percent). That compares to $1,837 (2.5 percent) among those households earning $50,000 to 100,000.
  3. Giving away money is good for kids. Yes, it helps the people or organizations that receive the money. But it is also good for kids themselves. People who are generous are more likely to be happy and have a sense of purpose in life.
  4. Generous kids grow into generous adults. Money habits form during childhood and the teenage years. Kids who learn to give generously when they are young are much more likely to be generous as adults. Helping children and teens learn to give is an important counterbalance to consumerism and a sense of entitlement that can come when you always focus on what you want for yourself.
  5. Talking about giving helps us remember what’s most important. Each year, our family sits and talks together about the places and causes we want to support as a family—and what our kids want to support themselves. These giving conversations are much more meaningful than many other things we spend a lot of time talking about. Giving together as a family builds bonds and a shared sense of purpose.
  6. It’s better for kids to ask them to give than to spend. Advertisers spend billions each year targeting children and teens in hopes that they will spend—and get their families to spend. Most of the time, we don’t give that a second thought. So why shouldn’t we do what we can to counterbalance the spending messages by appealing to kids’ generosity and helping them find ways to put their money where their heart is?

Bank It, a financial literacy resource for families from Capital One and Search Institute, is one of the only programs that highlights giving as a core area of financial literacy. It offers practical information that helps parents and teens learn why giving matters and how to give in ways that match their values. Check it out at BankIt.com.


Dr. Eugene C. Roehlkepartain is Vice President of Research and Development at Search Institute. Roehlkepartain is widely recognized as an expert in child, youth, and family development in community contexts. Particular areas of interest include family strengths, community supports for families and youth, spiritual development, service-learning, youth philanthropy, and linking youth development with financial literacy.

Photo Credit: Chris Yarzab

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