Financial skills are some of the most important life skills, and yet our schools don’t teach those skills.

At the root of those skills are important principles that make for wise money management. In order to protect your children from future financial crises like mortgage foreclosures, burdensome debt from student loans and credit cards, and not enough savings to ever retire, you will have to be their teacher. You’ll have to teach them more than how to balance a checkbook.

You’ll have to teach them that it’s important to understand the fine print on bank loan and credit card agreements.

Here are 3 important principles kids need to learn about money and when to teach them.

Three Key Principles for Managing Money Better

1) Patience: Ages 0-3

Impatience is the root cause of the burdensome unsecured debt that plagues millions and millions of people.

Therefore, it’s vitally important to teach the lesson of patience — you should wait to buy something you want until you can pay for it — as the first lesson about money.

Teach your kids that it’s important to learn to wait for what we want. Standing in line and taking turns are good practice. Delaying snacks until the clock says it’s “snack time” is another way to teach patience. Even delaying responding to their demands for attention for a minute or two goes a long way in teaching patience. “You’ll have to wait until I finish washing these dishes, then I’ll get you a drink of water.”

It’s never to early to start training your kids to wait for gratification of their desires.

2) Sharing: Ages 2-5

Teach your kids that they do not get to buy something every time they go into a store. It’s not always their “turn.”

State a specific purpose when you go shopping, for example, “today we’re going to buy a gift for Sabrina’s birthday party. That means we’re not going to buy anything for you because we’re not here for that.”

Clearly define when it is your child’s turn. “Grandma sent you this money for your birthday. That means it’s your turn to buy something. Maybe you want to get those red tennis shoes you liked so well.”

Also, teach your child to set aside a portion of all the money they receive for “sharing,” to give to someone who needs it or to donate to a special cause.

3) Choosing: Ages 4-9

In order to make sound financial decisions, we have to make a lifetime of wise decisions that choose one thing over another.

Teach your kids how to choose wisely.

Don’t tell them, “We don’t have enough money for that,” or “we can’t afford that,” without elaborating.

It’s better to say something like, “if we buy that princess crown, we won’t be able to save enough money for our trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Florida. So, we’re not going to spend our money on the crown today. Instead, we’re going to it save for Florida.”

Yes, math skills are important for money management, but even more important are the underlying values that enable people to build wealth.

If we give kids the foundational principles of patience, sharing, and choosing, starting long before they learn arithmetic, they will have an easier time building a good, prosperous adulthood.