Smart Money Kids

Many readers know that I have two grade school daughters because I’ve written about them in the context of saving for college.

Like any parent, I want smart money kids. While this is a common goal among parents, it’s easy to say and much more difficult to actually accomplish in practice.

There was an article in the New York Times over the weekend that described a guy who withdrew his monthly salary of $10,000 in cash from the bank and dumped it on the kitchen table to show his kids what came into the household.  After what must have been a fairly shocking moment, he started taking away money to pay for the things that the family spent money on: the mortgages, food, taxes, healthcare and so forth all the way down to the kid’s soccer games and hamburger night.

You can read the whole article by clicking here, but basically, the idea was to show the kids the value of money and the things that they took for granted in their everyday life.

Although I can’t really imagine actually doing it, I thought it was a fascinating idea that would surely be impactful. The thrust of the article was to tell your kids more about your personal financial circumstances, which may be a good idea even if you don’t cover the kitchen table with wads of cash.

Yesterday, I was looking through the Wall Street Journal and saw another article about kids and money. This article basically said that you’re probably better off teaching your kids basic math skills rather than specific financial planning concepts.

What really caught my attention, though, was a graphic near the bottom of the article that showed some basic financial literacy benchmarks by grade level.

For example, you might tell a kindergartner about how you have to return something that you’ve borrowed. An eighth grader should learn the difference between a credit card and a debit card and a senior in high school should be able to calculate the various interest expenses with different types of loans.

The graphic referenced a whole workbook of benchmarks like this and while I’m not even close to being finished with it, I want to share it with you.

Follow this link for the standards book from the JumpStart Coalition – it will be worth your while if you want to talk to your kids or grandkids about money. I plan on going through some of it with my kids.

In the meantime, let me conclude with a funny story about my kids. A few years ago, interest rates were so low that my wife and I converted our 30-year mortgage into a 15-year mortgage.

I opened the statement in the kitchen when I got home from work and said to my wife that I really liked the 15-year loan because you could really see the principle balance falling.

My older daughter, who was watching TV nearby said, ‘Dad, are you in debt?’

Surprised, I said, ‘Yes, honey, we had to borrow money to live in this house.’

Hearing that, she excitedly asked, ‘Dad, do you want to get out of debt?’

Before I could say anything, she said, ‘There’s a phone number on TV that I can get you so that you can get out of debt!’

She was so proud and excited that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the debt consolidation commercials that she had seen weren’t the right solution.

I did realize that just like everything else, that if my wife and I don’t teach the kids, someone else will and it won’t be as good.