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Kids can come up with some pretty amazing ideas.
In fact, ear muffs, the popsicle and the trampoline were all invented by children.
Yet, even if your kid isn’t destined to be the next Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg, encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset will help them develop necessary life skills, as well as teach them important financial lessons.
“There are these unbelievable opportunities, as parents, that happen right under your roof to teach kids about money and entrepreneurship on the top of the list,” said Thomas Henske, a certified financial planner with New York-based Lenox Advisors.
By becoming an entrepreneur — whether it is simply putting up a neighborhood lemonade stand, launching a landscaping business or developing a new app — kids can learn about budgeting, saving, spending and investing.
“It makes you value money more,” said Henske, who developed and runs his firm’s smart-money kids program. “It’s hard to make it. It’s hard to keep it.”
It also helps children develop perseverance by learning from their failures, and it begins to introduce critical thinking, said Don Bossi, president of FIRST, a nonprofit organization that helps foster innovations by students K-12 in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“Failure is part of the learning process,” he said.
“If they try something and it doesn’t work, instead of putting it down and walking away, nurture them,” he said.
You can ask, “‘What did you learn from that? What can you do to make it better?'”
Here are other things you can do to encourage your kid become an self-starter — and help them get smart about money in the process.
The good news is young kids already think creatively.
“Something about growing up sort of beats the creativity out of us,” Bossi said.
“Young kids aren’t as constrained by history or what they know,” he added. “They are not afraid of being wrong.
“They are not afraid of being told their idea is crazy. They are not afraid of failure.”
Henske agrees, pointing out that adults tend to group-think.
So, if your kid has a great idea, be curious about it and help nurture it. Even if it is a “whacky” one, he said.
“The second you start stifling it … they lose their confidence and start getting into group-think,” he warned.
Does your kid want to find a way to start making money?
The first thing to do is ask them what they can do to make it happen. That’s where brainstorming comes in.
“Some kids will say, ‘I can rake the leaves,’ or ‘I can make the beds,'” Henske said. “You say, ‘Wow, could you build a business around that?'”
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Henske likes to encourage brainstorming by using mind maps. It can be as simple as picking up a pen and paper or using an online tool, such as mindmeister.com.
For example, his 15-year-old son came to him for money because he couldn’t get a job until he turned 16. Henske turned it around and asked him to come up with an idea to earn it on his own. His son is now developing an app and website that connects teens to neighbors who need chores done around the house.
“There are cool opportunities for parents,” he said. “All you have to do is be aware and be on the lookout for it.”
Find a mentor
Research the market
If you think your kid’s idea has the potential to turn into a business, first research the market to see what the need is and assess the competition. Come up with a business model and, if it is a product, figure out how much it would cost to produce it.
“If all those things look good … your kid could start to talk to angel investors to see if someone can fund it, taking it from prototype and concept to production and maybe a real business,” said Bossi.
Teach life lessons along the way
As you guide your children through building and running their business, talk to them about profits and taxes, Henske said.
You can also have them read books about famous entrepreneurs.
But don’t overdo it.
“Don’t get caught up, as a parent, trying to use the fire-hose method: You bring the kids in the room one day and sit in the room for five hours and teach them how to be entrepreneurs,” warned Henske.
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Instead, think about doing it a bit at a time.
“Let it drip a little, let it sit and then talk about it,” he said. “And see what they come up with.
“Or even let it sit a couple of weeks,” he added.
The bottom line
If you take the time to teach and guide your kids, they’ll soak it all up.
“Kids are just a sponge,” Bossi said. “When you expose them to things like brainstorming and prototyping, they get it.
“They are almost naturals at it.”
There may also be a price to pay if you don’t, warned Henske.
“If we don’t teach our kids to be entrepreneurs, which really means having an idea and taking control of your own destiny, they are going to grip onto their first job and when it changes and goes away, they are not going to be able to deal,” he said.
“As a parent, that should scare the heck out of us.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.