Teach Your Kids to Buy and Sell

Start your child on the path to personal success early: Help them understand the value of their money and why it should be seen as a tool, not a goal.
07/17/2012 06:53pm ET | Updated September 16, 2012
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The art of a yard sale is part negotiation and part socialization, all backed by the science of commerce. Its important for today's kids to learn how to negotiate, how to read people and how to understand the true economic value of an item.

My wife and I were parting with a few things from our son's younger days and decided to join a huge neighborhood yard sale. As the potential customers flowed up, around and back down the driveway, I was offered all kinds of opportunities to make a deal. A couple people even came by to sell us something: food! A yard sale is a wonderful introduction into the basics of sales:

1) They have a need.
2) You have a product (or service).
3) Agree on a price.

There are a few of you who have already seen the entrepreneurial spirit in your child. They want to open a lemonade stand or start a lawn-mowing business or replace that old Warren Buffett guy and teach him that "P/E ratio" is really about how many jumping jacks you do during third period!

Such budding entrepreneurs may not be your run-of-the-mill tot, but a yard sale can be a tremendously valuable experience for all kids. They'll get a live lesson in negotiation and see what it means to compromise so that everyone comes out a winner. Most importantly, they'll develop socialization and analytical skills for dealing with other people. It can boost self-esteem, develop a sense of business adventure and begin the evolution of a skill set that can be applied in any career field.

Beyond the realm of business, the critical ability to understand and manage personal finance should be taught to every child. Decades ago, it was rare to find a public school that didn't teach "Home Ec". Of course, that was short for "Home Economics" -- the management of a home and community. It was expected that by the time a child reached the age of maturity, they would be ready to run their own home, especially its finances. Balancing check books, monitoring expenses and allocating income were commonplace abilities. As we can see throughout the business and political worlds of today, those skills are far less common.

Start your child on the path to personal success: Take them to a yard sale and teach them to buy something with their own money. Help them understand the value of their money and why it should be seen as a tool, not a goal. If you keep this flame alive, they will be thankful when they reach adulthood and far surpass their less-experienced and under-prepared peers.