By Thomas Henske
I'm lucky to have many readers who pass along articles they come across on financial literacy. I finally had some time to catch up on my reading and came across two very different articles that sparked my interest on the topic of what age we should start teaching our kids about money. They were polar-opposite opinions that said:
According to "Financial Literacy? It's Elementary," by political writer Burwell Stark:
"Forget financial illiteracy.
Click Here :Free Financial Training Book For Kids And TeensI don't know of many kindergartners who are literate, period. Isn't that the age where they start the letters and how words are formed?"
"Incorporating financial literacy into school curriculums would add yet another `core' to the already overloaded education mandates."
"I only remember spending an entire class in the ninth grade learning how to write a check.Twenty-five years later, how often do I use that all-important skill? ... never."
Hmmm, I need to think about that stance. While I'm pondering that point of view, let me think about the other side.
As written in "Financial Education Can't Wait Till High School," by James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr., president of the Maryland Board of Education; Charlene M. Dukes, the board's vice president; and Bernard J. Sadusky, Maryland's interim state superintendent of schools:
"The earlier children begin learning about how to manage money, the better off they will be as adults."
"Most experts say children begin to develop their understanding of money long before high school."
The lingering question is, when is that magical year that we, as parents, should begin teaching kids about money? While there is no definite answer, I think it's beneficial to lay a foundation in kindergarten -- despite Stark's objections. As a parent, you should begin getting your child comfortable with having open dialogues, within the household, on the topic.
Everyday activities are teachable moments. I recall many entertaining times in our house where I've played "store" with my kids, pretending to buy something from them with their toy cash register with plastic coins. They learned the concept of exchange with play money for products and services, got familiar with coins, and how about simple math as they make change! Why can't we combine learning with fun?
I recently learned that even the Girl Scouts have made financial literacy part of its program. New merit badges reflect modern times. They have 13 types of personal finance badges, each earned by completing five activities, which include:
financing my future;
good credit; and
These activities are age-appropriate and start as early as five years old.
I'm less familiar with the Boy Scout version of money education, but I'm told they too have a "personal management" badge that requires them to complete activities like comparison shopping and stock market research. Cool.
My vote is with DeGraffenreidt, Dukes and Sadusky. Starting early allows you to take your time and not force-feed financial lessons to our kids. High school is too late. Well, it's better late than never, but why miss out on all that fun in the years your kids would be most receptive to the learning?