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Kids Can Learn Finance Too!

Happy Financial Literacy Month, y'all! When I think about Financial Literacy, I think about people receiving the tools they need to build a path to financial freedom and generational wealth.

I recently read a tweet asking what the point was of building generational wealth if we don't teach our kids how to take care of it when it's theirs. We know we would all be better now if we had learned basic financial skills before we were responsible for money. And sharing those skills earlier is what I want to talk about in this post.

I had the pleasure of partnering with The Soul Project to teach a session on personal finance to girls aged 10-12 in the fall of last year. The Soul Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help women and girls unveil their innate value and step into their most empowered selves. They host empowering, educational experiences, workshops, and events and provide a safe space for women and girls to stand in their truth while inspiring others to do the same. Topics for workshops range from yoga to self-confidence to better financial habits.

I'm not going to lie. When asked to teach 10-12-year-old girls about finance, I had to think hard about making it accessible for them. I focused the session on how to balance a checkbook (a lost art, in my opinion). I wanted this concept to feel tangible and engaging to them. And what better way to do so than to make a game out of it?

The setup of the game was pretty simple. Each girl started with a different amount of money, and they got to decide what their jobs were that paid them the money. Each got a "checkbook" sheet to track their income and expenses. I drafted a list of bills that every girl had to pay, and they paid me for those bills while recording each transaction in their "checkbooks." I found fake money online that looked real, so when they "paid" their bills, they actually handed me money.

Now here is where the game gets fun. I asked my roommate to design two decks of cards: a Chance deck and an Extra Money deck. Once they paid all their bills and recorded their transactions, the girls took turns pulling from the Chance deck and responding to the instructions on the card. Some examples include: "Your company just gave you a $1,000 bonus for the great work you've done; your check engine light came on for your car, so you have to pay $300 to the mechanic to fix it; you decide to treat yourself and get a massage. Pay $175."

Obviously, the fun was in the mystery. What card am I going to pull? Will I get money or pay money? And because they all received different initial amounts of money, some of the girls ran out of funds. Enter the Extra Money deck.

Through the Extra Money deck, I wanted to teach the girls about emergency funds and credit cards. When a girl ran out of money, they got to pull a card from the Extra Money deck, and the card would either reveal that they had an emergency fund of a specified amount or that they were approved for a credit card for a specified spending limit. I gave them the money outright if they got an emergency fund card. If they got a credit card approval, they had to give me something valuable, like a bracelet.

The game's goal was to teach the girls to track their transactions, prepare for emergencies by having some funds stored away, and understand what a credit card was (i.e., not free money).

Here are some lessons the girls taught me through this experience:

  • They know the importance of money: You should have seen the girls' reactions when they saw the fake money. They got so excited because they thought it was real! (I wish I could have given them all real money). Money is already a charged concept for them, so we should teach them early how to interact with it wisely.

  • They are already familiar with financial concepts: These girls already knew the concepts of salary, budget, credit card, and debit cards. However, while they are familiar with the ideas, they don't fully understand what they mean, sometimes even having the wrong meaning, nor what impact those things can have on their lives. I explained the difference between a credit card and a debit card once, and they got it. They are not too young to learn about finance. On the contrary, they may embed incorrect information about financial concepts because we are not addressing them directly.

  • Some of these girls were woefully unaware of reality: One girl ran out of money due to paying her bills and the chance cards she received. She was the first to pull an Extra Money card, but her friend reassured her that this was just a game before she could pull it: "In real life, people do not run out of money." I had to correct her gently. We don't have an infinite supply of money to cover our needs, and the earlier the girls learn this, the better they will be at taking care of their own money and cultivating generosity to help others who don't have enough.

  • They will surprise you: These girls were quick studies and asked insightful questions. That wasn't surprising. Their answers and surmises from the exercises were. They displayed more empathy for those who had less money than their adult counterparts, and they were immediately able to relate the information I gave them to situations in their current lives.

My time with these incredible girls was very valuable. It reinforced what I felt instinctually, that we have to start teaching our kids early on about finance. This is especially true for our girls, who are culturally taught to believe that they are bad at money.

Imagine where you would be now, if at 10, you'd learned how to balance a check book and have an emergency fund. Don't we want that for our kids? Don't we want that for their future? To help in that regard, here are a list of resources to help teach kids about finance:

We teach our kids so much. How to share, how to love, how to read, how to apologize and how to tie their shoes. Let's not miss out on teaching them another fundamental building block of their lives: how to be financially literate.

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