Everyday life affords parents who may be uncomfortable talking about finances with many teachable moments.
Parents and caregivers teach children about physical safety, but comparatively little about financial safety. This needs to change if these children are going to grow up to be responsible, independent adults able to navigate the waters of a choppy economy.
That thought is the inspiration behind Finance for Kidz, a 20-volume set of books created by
Dr. Prakash Dheeriya, Professor of Finance at California State University-Dominguez Hills. The books have been translated into 10 languages and are available in 50 countries. Because, he told Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner, all children should be introduced to basic financial concepts. ‘Just as the world is integrated, so are the financial markets. A crisis here or in other parts of the world can spread.’
The 2008 economic collapse was Dr. Dheeriya’s ‘a-ha’ moment to create ‘Finance for Kidz.” It underlined what he terms the “dismal” state of financial education in America’s schools. With a firmer foundation of financial knowledge, he said, people would be better prepared to handle crises in their personal finances. “When I teach a class,” he said, “I give tons of examples to explain concepts. I thought, ‘Why don’t I do that with my own kids (at the time ages 6-7)?”
He observed them throughout their day and fashioned financial-themed stories based on their experiences.
Each book features recurring characters, a family that includes a mother, father, two boys and one girl. Each book tackles a specific concept, including “Wants and Needs,” “Choice,” “Scarcity and Value,” “Savings,” “Budgeting,” “Credit” and “Managing a Checkbook.”
The most requested book in the series, Dr. Dheeriya said, is “Wants and Needs,” an invaluable concept to teach children (and some adults, he added). “When we go shopping in a grocery store,” he laughed, “My kids say, ‘I need this, I need that.’ I tell them, ‘You don’t need it, you just want it.’
Failure to teach children financial literacy has far-reaching consequences, Dr. Dheeriya observed. “I’ve had people from all walks of life. doctors and surgeons, people who are highly educated, and they confess to me they are not sure how (finances) work. They rely on financial advisors to manage their money. (In turn), they don’t know how to explain (money) to their kids.”
“Finances for Kidz” was designed to be a conversation starter as prelude to “the money talk.” The books contain exercises for parents to do with their children. Beyond the books, Dr. Dheeriya said, everyday life affords parents who may be uncomfortable talking about finances with many teachable moments. “Thanksgiving is coming up,” he said. “They can involve their children in planning the meal and what budgeting is involved.”
One concept Dr. Dheeriya believes parents might want to introduce to their children is risk and return. “Everyone talks about the importance of saving money,” he said, "but children need to appreciate risk. I think of guys like Bernie Madoff who told investors, ‘I can double your money.’ Risk is a crucial component for retirement planning.”
Financial literacy is perhaps the best defense for the Madoffs of the world or uncertain economies. “To me,” Dr. Dheeriya said, “We teach our children not to put their fingers in an electrical socket and to look both ways when they cross the street. We teach them about physical safety but nothing about financial safety.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.