(BPT) - Teaching your kids to be financially savvy could help them to be financially confident and successful in the future. As credit card debt and low retirement savings continue to frustrate many Americans, you can help your kids steer clear of these and other financial pitfalls by talking to them early on about the value of money. In fact people who have had financial education participate more often in retirement programs, make larger contributions to the programs and have a much higher savings rate than others, according to research from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“Managing money effectively is one of the keys to gaining wealth, but many of us forget to talk to our kids about it, or avoid the subject, all together,” says Michael Fanning, an executive vice president at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). The company recently debuted its new FutureSmart Challenge that teaches middle school students smart money management skills for the future, including how to save, spend, invest, donate and use credit wisely.

“As much as we teach our kids about math, science and history, children also need to learn about money and how to use it properly, so they can succeed in the future,” adds Fanning. “If we give them tools for financial success now, they’ll make smarter decisions down the road.”

Seventy-two percent of parents say it is important to educate children about finances, but only about half are actively teaching their kids about saving, spending and investing, according to MassMutual’s 2013 State of the American Family Study. Here are five tips to get the conversation started:

* Household finances: Expose your kids to age-appropriate information about your household budget and show them what it costs to keep your home running. Electricity, gas or oil, food and even cable bills are great ways to talk about budgets, explaining that setting aside money to pay for various items is one of the reasons you are able to maintain your lifestyle.

* College is key: Studies show that people with college degrees earn significantly more money in their lifetime than those without one. Have your kids research various job titles, both those requiring a degree and those that do not, along with their corresponding salary ranges, so they can see first-hand the impact a higher education can have on their income. This is also a good time to talk about different career paths and your children’s future aspirations.

* Needs versus wants: Helping your kids understand that a need is something you have to have like food versus something that would be nice to have - a want, like the latest video game, will encourage them to think about how they are spending money. If they really want that video game, encourage them to save for it.

* Credit cards versus dollars: How you pay for things matters, especially when it comes to credit card debt. Talk to your kids about the pros and cons of credit cards, the importance of paying a balance off every month and how interest rates can make you pay more money, in the end.

* The importance of saving: If you don’t already, consider paying your kids an allowance and encourage them to set aside three different funds: money to save, share and spend. Take them to open a bank account, and show them how they can build their wealth by contributing regularly and earning interest.

Whether you drive to the bank to open up an account, show your kids the family budget or simply buy a piggy bank and add your daily change accumulation to it, the steps you take today to teach your children about money and how to manage it can help set them on the right path to a financially confident and successful future. For more ideas to help teach your children about money visit www.massmutual.com/futuresmartchallenge.