Teach Your Children Well


Overspending and underinvesting are Americans' God-given rights. After all, just look at the national budget.

But what about the country's kids. Can anyone in good conscience desire to pass on the bankrupting habits of those 40 and older?

The least parents, schools, and non-profit organizations can do is teach children how to manage their finances. Here's how:

Stock brokers, financial analysts, accountants, and others comfortable with numbers, should volunteer one afternoon or evening a week to teach kids how to keep a checkbook, how to budget and how to invest. There are plenty of texts available in the library or at your local bookstore.

Encourage your local school to participate in the Stock Market Game of the Securities Industry Foundation for Economic Education (120 Broadway, 35th Fl, NY, NY 10271). Children in all age groups learn about the fundamentals of investment by playing this game and winners receive recognition and prizes. Teams must pay a registration fee, which you can sponsor.

Buy ParentBanc, a nylon wallet with fake checks, a check register, a photo ID and instructions for parents. ParentBanc can be found at many toy stores and is a good way to teach your kids about banking. If you don't have kids yourself, give it to someone with kids. Then open a real account for them at a bank. Take them there on a regular basis to make deposits and show them how interest is compounded.

Give kids an allowance and help them budget it. If they spend their allowance too quickly, don't fork over to help them out; kids need to understand the consequences of overspending (as adults in this country have not).

Parents should be aware that they are constantly sending signals to their kids about finances. If you toss items into the cart at the supermarket without looking at the price, for example, your kids aren't exactly going to become savvy shoppers, are they. Instead, teach them to comparison shop by looking at prices, labels and weights. Have your kids cut out coupons to reinforce the notion that there are ways to save money. And when purchasing items, explain why you are doing so to show them your thinking.

Bottom line: kids deserve a chance to get ahead in life. Teaching them about personal finance will help them do so.

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