Raising Financially Fit Young People

By Evangelia Biddy

Not all children’s books need begin with “Once upon a time”, shares financial literacy expert Susan Beacham and New York Times bestselling author, Lynnette Khalfani Cox. The dynamic pair joined forces to create The Millionaire Kid$ Club™ children’s book series. The picture books teach children that money is not merely something to be used for buying pizza and the latest music CD. Beautifully illustrated, the literary series teaches childhood friends that there are actually four things you can do with money: Save, Spend, Donate or Invest!

To underscore the point Susan Beacham, co-founder of Money Savvy Generation ( www.msgen.com ) created the beloved Money Savvy Pig®, a four-chambered bank which teaches young people the power of delayed gratification through money choices and goal-setting. The company develops innovative products that help parents and educators teach basic personal finance skills to school-aged children. The bank is the centerpiece of the Money Savvy Kids™ Basic Personal Finance Curriculum. The pioneering system uses age-appropriate instructional materials to teach kids about the value of money. Currently, the program is taught in school districts in over twenty-seven states.


EB: What is the goal of this new money savvy series?

Susan Beacham: The goal is to teach young people that money is not merely something for buying what they want right now. They have options and decision to make as to how and when they will use money. This is the foundation to establishing good personal finance fundamentals.

Lynnette Khalfani Cox: The Millionaire Kid$ Club™ is designed to teach young people about the choices they have with money. Too often, kids only think about doing one thing with money: spending it. We hope to show them that in addition to spending, they can save, invest and donate money too.


EB: Who is the target audience, who will benefit the most from this series?

Lynnette Khalfani Cox: While young people between the ages and 5-12 represent the target audience for The Millionaire Kid$ Club™, many teenagers – and adults, for that matter – will find value in the book’s lessons. After all, people of all ages need to be money savvy.

Susan Beacham: Parents interested in bringing up informed, financially responsible children must be at the forefront in educating their children on proper money management. These are not lessons they are likely to learn in today’s traditional classrooms.


EB: Why is the message of financial literacy for this group so important? Aren’t they too young to learn about money matters?

Susan Beacham: A child can have solid reading, writing and math skills, but if they cannot manage their money, they will struggle, even fail as adults. Research shows that even a small amount of time spent teaching children with age-appropriate material about basic money management leads to a lifetime of good money management habits. Early intervention is the key to success.

Lynnette Khalfani Cox: It’s critically important to teach young people about smart money choices as soon as possible because the younger we do so, the more positive influence we can have in helping them to avoid the myriad of financial pitfalls awaiting them. Some people think it’s way too early to teach elementary school children about money. But we beg to differ. For starters, kids are hungry to learn about money. They’re impressionable. They’re fascinated with the topic of money. Marketers and advertisers sure aren’t waiting to try to coax children into developing a consumer’s mentality of just wanting to spend, spend, spend.


EB: What has been the response from your target audience?

Lynnette Khalfani Cox: Phenomenal! I’ve had tremendous feedback from groups of 2nd graders and 5th graders at my kids’ school. They all love the characters in The Millionaire Kid$ Club™ and identified with them. Some students say they recognized some of their friends in the behaviors of various characters in the series.

I volunteer at WorldofMoney.org, a New York City-based non-profit that teaches financial literacy to under-privileged teenagers. Executive director, Sabrina Lamb, read the books and fell in love with them. I initially thought that The Millionaire Kid$ Club™ series would be too “juvenile” for the audience served by the non-profit. Sabrina assured me that the messages were exactly what they needed to hear. Though the young people served by the organization range from ages 13-18, Sabrina is so enamored of The Millionaire Kids Club series that she’s made it mandatory reading for the incoming group of students who will participate in the financial institute sponsored by WorldofMoney.org this summer.


EB: What are the pitfalls faced by college-aged students? How can they avoid them?

Susan Beacham: Managing their credit cards can be a major pitfall for coeds. Students are frequently unaware of the punishing interest rates and fees and quickly find themselves in over their head. This is compounded by the relentless solicitation of college-aged students by financial companies who encourage students to carry multiple cards. Students see these cards as a source of “free money”, as opposed to debt that must be repaid. When these credit card obligations are combined with college loans, the financial burden can become overwhelming. Statistics show that more United States college students are forced from college for financial rather than academic reasons.

Lynnette Khalfani Cox: College students face a number of pitfalls – financial and otherwise. The major economic challenges are college loans and credit card debt. According to the College Board, the typical grad from the Class of 2011 left school with over $20,000 in student loan debt. Those who went to graduate school tacked on another $32,000 in student loans. Among students who pursue specialty areas, such as law or medical school, it’s not uncommon for them to wind up with well over $100,000 in educational debt. Add to this another $2,500 to $5,000 in credit card debt, on average, and it’s easy to see why today’s youth face an unprecedented degree of financial challenges.

In the midst of such challenges, some coeds will succumb to pressures – like drinking and drugs. Not surprisingly, the tendency to medicate oneself – with booze or illegal substances – can be exacerbated by young people with financial troubles who want to drown their sorrows or numb themselves to the pain of their financial problems. Many who will not be able to complete their university education may find themselves working in dead-end jobs, under-employed or unemployed altogether. It is not uncommon for employers to run credit checks on individuals interviewing with them. With limited career prospects and lagging financial incomes, it’s critical that they know how to manage money well. Even among those earning high incomes, they have to learn early that it is  not just about how much you make, but about what your spending habits and financial behaviors are like, that determine how financially successful you will be in life.

Our hope with The Millionaire Kid$ Club™ series is that we will empower the next generation of young people and give them basic money management skills that help them avoid making the mistakes that so many in our generation made — including us!

You can find the books here  http://www.msgen.com/ or here Enhanced by Zemantahttp://themoneycoach.net/

Evangelia Biddy, Editor-in-Chief of Junior, The Magazine about Bringing up Successful Boys, is also a contributor to Raising Boys World, an expert for Bizymoms.com,  and an educational consultant. She can be reached at ebiddy@juniorthemagazine.com


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