Dear Readers: The new school year is just around the corner, and as I think about the importance of financial education, I want to remind all parents -- and grandparents -- that it's never too early to help kids learn about money. So as your elementary students get into the basics of math, why not apply some of those lessons to real-life situations? Here are some ideas to help make the numbers add up to some practical skills.

Bring Addition and Subtraction to Life With an Allowance

When kids first learn about addition, it can be very eye-opening. Numbers aren't just squiggles on a page; they have real meaning! So why not use this aha moment to give your kids a chance to do some practical addition and subtraction?

An allowance gives kids the very important opportunity to handle and manage money. Whether or not you tie an allowance to chores is up to you. Some people believe that chores are a family responsibility that shouldn't be related to reward. But others feel strongly that to make an allowance meaningful, it should be tied to some type of responsibility. Whatever you decide, it's important to be consistent and to explain the rules of the road.

Also, when you give your children an allowance, be clear that the money is to be used for some expense of their own. Maybe it's a trip to the store, or as kids get older, maybe it's for lunch money or entertainment. Be sure they understand that you expect them to keep track of the money, spend it wisely and make the addition and subtraction work. Even a 6-year-old can learn what it's like to save \$2 and then go to the store, buy a treat and come home with the change.

Make Math Problems Real With Savings Goals

Think of the old word problems we all had to solve. They usually involved something like this: "If you get an allowance of \$10 a week and spend \$7.50 a week on lunches, how many weeks will it take to save \$25 for a special outing?" To me, the learning opportunity here is not just the math but the idea of saving for a goal.

So as you give your kids their own money to handle, help them also set some savings goals. Start with something they can save for the short term. That will make the goal real and give them a sense of accomplishment when they achieve it.