Experts say we're doing a terrible job teaching children how to handle money. But many groups and companies are stepping forward with solutions aimed at parents, teachers, and youngsters.
Children get little in the way of formal training about money. "It's nuts. We don't let people drive without taking a driving test. Yet we drop young people into a chaotic financial world without the basic survival skills they need," writer Brett Arends says in a MarketWatch article called "What Should You Teach Your Kids About Money?" Teaching youngsters how to save and how to handle the cost of college should be priorities, Arends says.
The Council for Economic Education is a nonprofit aimed at helping educators get this message across: "It is only by acquiring economic and financial literacy that children can learn that there are better options for a life well lived, will be able to see opportunity on their horizon line and, ultimately, can grow into successful and productive adults capable of making informed and responsible decisions." But, the group says, since the financial crisis, "no improvement has been seen in the area of personal finance. The number of states that require students to take a personal finance course (or personal finance included in an economics course) as a high school graduation requirement remains at 13."
Find some practical steps for learning and teaching personal finance to children at themint.org, a site run by the insurance and financial-services company Northwestern Mutual. The home page has simple tabs labeled: "fun for kids," "tips for tweens," "pointers for parents," and "ideas for teachers." There's good advice - and the occasional corporate hint that insurance is the grown-up way to prepare for big financial losses.
Who thinks of the Federal Reserve as a resource for teaching? The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia does. Its site includes downloadable lesson plans for teaching economics and personal finance to elementary, middle, and high school students. For example, how could you demonstrate a concept like the expansion of the money supply? A lesson in lending and borrowing, called "The case of the gigantic $100,000 bill," demonstrates the principle of money creation.
"You need money to buy things" and "You earn money by working" are the first two of "20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives," according to Money as You Grow, an attractive site developed by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Lesson 20, for young adults, encourages 18-year-olds to start retirement accounts, diversify, and watch out for the costs of investing, such as mutual-fund fees.
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