What can your dog teach your kid about money?
Dogs drink from toilets. They’ve been known to spin in circles until they black out. These aren’t exactly the traits we look for in a financial adviser—but here’s something surprising: Your kids might learn more about money from your pet canine than they can from some high-priced personal finance guru. Show your kids how to create a budget, spend smart, and even invest for the future—with help from these four money-savvy breeds. And if you’re a cat lover, these also can apply.
Budget like a Bloodhound
Owning a dog can cost thousands of dollars a year. Multiply that by a typical 11-year lifespan, and you’re dropping a small fortune on Fido. But you can use that outlay to teach your kid the lifelong skill of budgeting. When it comes to financial education, teachable moments are everywhere. Over the course of a single month, help your kid keep track of every pet-related expense, noting the item, price, and where you bought it. From food to veterinary care to those cute little booties that keep their paws warm and dry—make sure it all goes down in your little one’s ledger.
Next, have your kid weed out all the unnecessary expenses. Needs—like those endless bags of kibble and occasional trips to the vet—those stay in. Wants (um…maybe press on that cashmere doggie sweater vest?) have to go. (Trust me, once kids taste the power of the red pen, they won’t want to stop!) What’s left over? Add it up, and this is your monthly pet budget. Now it’s a matter of learning to stick to it—and finding ways to cut corners if necessary.
Shop like a Shar-Pei
Any kid who walks the family dog knows a pooch can be very discerning about where they conduct their… business. Sometimes lots of lamp posts and fire hydrants will fail the sniff test before your dog finds just the right spot. Kids should be just as picky when it comes to spending.
Teach your kid to comparison shop by going aisle by aisle at the local pet store (just like you would at a supermarket). Read labels, compare prices—even take a sniff if necessary. Your kid is here to find out whether the family is getting the most for its pet budget. Is that GMO-free canned food really worth the premium price? Could you save money without compromising chewiness by selecting a different brand of rawhide? (You could do this online, but a field trip is way more fun—and it’ll make a bigger impact.)
As you stroll past the labels with their glossy photos of shiny-coated puppies frolicking in wheat fields, take a minute to talk to your kid about marketing tricks. Tell them, for instance, about the major dog food company that was recently sued by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising after it claimed a scientific study showed that its food significantly extended dogs’ lifespans. The company settled. The lesson: Don’t always believe what you read on the label.
Save like a Schnauzer
Why do dogs bury their toys (and your cell phone) in the backyard? When they were wild animals, if a hunt yielded more food than the pack could eat, dogs would stash it underground for later. Explain to your kid: This is one of the reasons humans stash away extra money in a savings account (or a piggy bank).
And pet ownership can teach your kid some valuable lessons about that key financial skill: saving. For instance: Your pet budget didn’t leave a line item for luxuries. If your kid wants to buy something special for her pooch, she’ll have to save up her own money. Whenever your kid gets allowance or birthday cash, encourage her to set aside a small portion. Maybe even make a doggie deposit box for this very purpose. Even better, offer to match her money: For every dollar your kid saves, agree to add in 50 cents—consider it your “401(k-nine).” By saving three dollars a week (plus your 50% match), she can help the family dog upgrade from napping on the rug to this tufted pet loveseat—in just 6 months.
Snuggle like a mutt
Okay, this has nothing to do with money—or does it? The real reason we parents teach our kids about money is so they won’t have to worry about it when they’re older, and they can get on with the good things in life—like couch time with their fuzzy little money manager. Try doing that with your certified financial planner.