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Worried Kids Are Too Materialistic? You Can Change That

Jeremiah Tucker / April 27th, 2018

Almost 90% of Americans think American society is too materialistic, and that children are over-commercialized.

This is according to a poll conducted by The Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the pursuit of a more sustainable, less commercialized society.

If parents are worried about their children growing up too focused on material possessions, there are good reasons to be concerned. Research has shown a strong correlation between unhappiness and a fixation on wealth accumulation and material possessions.

If you think your own kids are already consumed with constant FOMO (fear of missing out) and envy fueled by the smartphones glued to their hands—which transmit a combination of consumer messaging and the carefully curated social media feeds of their peers and idols 24-7—there is hope yet.

A recent study detailed in The New York Times found that even among older children, it’s not too late to change their perceptions and habits. The study, led by Knox College psychology professor Tim Kasser, who wrote “The High Price of Materialism,” and Nathan Dugan, head of the education firm Share Save Spend, found that a deliberate intervention can decrease a child’s materialism, which they measured via a before and after test.

There are six steps a parent can take to decrease materialism in their kids. All of which revolve around imparting simple money lessons.

Credit unions are the only financial institutions that are not-for-profit and rooted in cooperative principles, such as social responsibility and member education.

  1. Give a regular allowance. How much is less important than how you help them use it. Ensure the child divides it according to a save, spend, and give strategy—routinizing sharing and giving will counteract spending.
  2. Talk about money as a family. Discuss income, expenses, and big purchases as a family whenever the topics arise—make money talks less taboo.
  3. Distinguish between wants and needs. Demonstrate how your spending is a reflection of your values. Maybe you spend less on new cars, but more on eating out because you regard it as a way to spend time together as a family? Explain that.
  4. Note the spend-emotion connection. Help your children track not just their spending, but how the allocation of their money makes them feel and what motivates them to spend. This will make them less susceptible to commercial pressure.
  5. Find a money mentor. Point to someone your family knows whose lifestyle reflects good sharing and spending behaviors.
  6. Make values-based spending an ongoing priority. Continue to find ways to talk about your financial decisions as a family. Explain your reasons for the decisions you make.

If you worry your own finances are preventing you from having meaningful money conversations with your kids, contact your credit union. Credit unions are the only financial institutions that are not-for-profit and rooted in cooperative principles, such as social responsibility and member education.

Your credit union has resources to help you take control of your—and your kids’—financial future.

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