Can’t Buy Me Love

Today’s Limerick Challenge
(Inspired by NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”)

Our kids’ spending habits aren’t funny,
And their financial future ain’t sunny.
If they spend more than they get,
They’ll be buried in debt.
We must teach them to manage their _______.

Record numbers of home foreclosures. Over $4.00 for a gallon of gas. Food prices skyrocketing. Listen to the news and you wonder how much worse it’ll get before it starts to get better. When your money doesn’t go as far as it used to, you really need to learn to use it wisely. Think about the decisions you make when you spend money. Not just for big ticket items like a car and a house, either. Stop and think how much you spend every month at Starbucks too. Now stop and think what kind of example we are setting for our kids.

One of the problems we have when it comes to spending is that technology has made it so much easier to separate us from our cash. In fact, cash seems to be less and less visible in favor of electronic and plastic currency. Why fumble with cash when you can just swipe a card? You’ve seen those Visa Check Card commercials where everything comes to a stop when some poor unenlightened soul tries to pay with cash? But do we really pay as much attention to our spending habits when our real money is reduced to plastic cards and numbers on a computer screen? According to author Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational), this degree of separation from actual money can actually have an effect on our behavior – and our honesty. Listen to his comments on the recent Bear Stearns debacle.

At school we use manipulatives and computer software to teach kids how to recognize and count coins and bills, and how to make change. But I wonder if we are preparing them deal with a real world of debit/credit cards, online banking, and one-click shopping. Do they truly understand that those numbers on the screen are a real and just as important as cash in their pocket? How do we get them to think about good money management and sound financial decision making.

One great media resource I like to use is BizKid$. This PBS series, made by the same team that produced Bill Nye-The Science Guy, is packed full of great lessons and positive examples of kids who understand proper money management. It’s fast paced and funny – I particularly like the Star Trek parodies – but it also teaches some simple and not-so-simple money management concepts in a way that connects with kids. The series is aimed at grades 4-7 and covers a variety of topics from “What is Money?” (Episode 2) to the “Global Economy” (Episode 20).

Their web site has video clips and a synopsis of each episode. Complete a free registration process and you’ll have access to teacher guides and classroom lessons developed by Junior Achievement. Check with your local PBS station to see about recording rights for your classroom.

Other sites/resources for money education:

  • Hands On Banking – an interactive web site sponsored by Wells Fargo.
  • Elementary Video Adventures: Money: Kids & Cash – Available to those of you with Discovery Streaming. (Log in and search for “Kids and Cash”.) It is a collection of 23 video segments for kids in grades 3-5.

If you have any great tools that you use for money education please leave a comment and link. Thanks.

Oh, and if the Dan Ariely clip caught your attention, check out his web site and his book, Predictably Irrational. I was fascinated by his thoughts on how we make decisions and the tricks our mind plays on us. Some of this will definitely come in handy dealing with kids in the classroom.