Book Review: Why didn't they teach me this in school?

This is a follow up to an earlier post featuring books about money that your teen might actually read.

Why Didn't They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By, by Cary Siegel is an easy-to-read list of practical tips and topics the author developed to share with his own kids.

Most principles are only a single page long, concise and easy to absorb quickly. Not a lot of math here. Instead the author focuses on practical guidance he's given his own kids.

Each principle starts with a large, bold headline so it would also be easy for your teen (and you) to simply flip through the book, read those 99 headlines and get some good reminders along with the main concepts.

Some of the suggestions (take care of your "stuff," don't try to keep up with the Joneses) will sound like the very things you've been telling your kids all along. You might have your own perspectives on a few, like "marry the 'financially right' person" or "it's OK to overpay the IRS (by a little) over the course of the year."

Either way, it's a good conversation starter. I like the practical, plainspoken approach this dad of five takes. It will be easy to hand this book to my busy teen and even if he only reads the titles on each page, he'll come away with some nuggets.


Money Books Teens Will Read

I'm looking for a quick and easy read for my busy teen.

Over the past few months we've talked about the basics surrounding money and credit, opened a teen checking account and implemented some day-to-day things to keep concepts about money front and center. Now I'd like something that can he can read at his leisure that's not "from mom."

It's got to be pretty short, relevant, concise, current and most of all, interesting to a teen. Tall order.

My search led me to two resources to share.
photo by picjumbo

5 Books on Money Your Teen (or Young Adult) Might Actually Read
This list from 2016 was posted by Time.com's Money. While none of these books look like the right fit for my teen, there may be something here that catches your eye. I've read the No. 3 recommendation, Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind by Sarah Newcomb. While I enjoyed it I don't think it's a great first book about finance for a teen if you're looking for lots of how-to and nuts and bolts information.

6 Must-Read Personal Finance Books Every Teen Should Read
This is a more recent (2017) list, and the one I'll work from. If I find any gems I will share them here. I don't have any recommendations yet with the exception of Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley. It's dated, but a classic.

Bonus:
For those with siblings there are some adorable books to introduce money to the younger set. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests these titles, geared primarily to ages 4 and up. These are a part of the Money As You Grow book club, a family financial education program. Check to see if your local library hosts a Money As You Grow book club here, or download discussion guides from the website to use at home.


8 Easy Ways Teens Can Learn About Money Every Day

Teaching our kids financial literacy feels so…scary. It sounds like a weighty, complicated topic that takes a lot of time. But hang in there for just a second, because it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

While there are a lot of topics, like earning, saving, investing and credit, that need more in-depth conversations, a lot of basic “how to” can be covered in your daily life with your teen.

Here are eight ideas for helping your teen become a little more financially literate every day. These aren’t the big sit down conversations about college or life. These are mini-lessons on the fly that have worked for me. Depending on the age of your kids (these apply mostly to teens) you can probably think of a ton more.

Writing checks
Yes, we occasionally still do write a check around my house and when we do, I hand it to my teen. Not only do I suspect that at some point - maybe only a handful of times, but at some point - in his life he will need to know this, I want him to see the process involved. It makes him stop and think about the amount and gives me a chance to explain the context, like maybe that I’m writing a check versus paying online because I save a transaction fee that way.
Photo: ISO Republic

Reviewing bank statements
If your teen has a checking or savings account, their online statement is probably delivered to you since it’s a custodial account. I print it out for my teen to look at and compare to his hand-written check ledger. There’s not much activity so it’s easy for him to spot errors. Somehow he never fails to spot any missing allowance payments his mom overlooked the month before.

Research charitable organizations
Sadly, there have been a lot of opportunities to give lately due to national and international disasters. If my teen is interested in giving I ask him to use Charity Navigator or Guidestar to become familiar with the organization just a little before he sends money. Then he deducts it from his “charitable giving” savings. If he’s giving locally he starts with SHARE Charlotte to learn about how a particular organization works to make our area better.

Save receipts
Any time my teen uses his debit card I ask that he keep the receipt to bring home and enter in his checkbook. As he manually records each purchase it puts his declining balance and the choices he's just made with those funds front and center.

Clip coupons
I don’t actually ask my teen to clip them, but I do involve him in using them, or at least comparing prices in the store. My teen does not love grocery shopping but when he’s with us we routinely ask him to go find us the “best deal” on an item and talk about his selection when he (eventually) comes back.

Make ATM deposits
Making ATM withdrawals seems to be an innate skill for most teens I’ve met. It’s the deposit process that they find unfamiliar. When I have a deposit to make, in the branch or (typically) via an ATM I try to involve my teen.

Shredding 
Every once in a while, hand your teen the credit card offers that you receive in the mail. Look at some of the fine print with them, then sit down in front of the shredder. It’s a great time to spend a couple minutes talking (loudly) about why you’re not interested in the offer and ways to protect yourself from identity theft.

Pay in cash
Our teens live in the virtual world, and to a large extent so do we. Carry a little cash and have your teen use it to pay for small family purchases. This forces them to pay more attention to the process of spending and gives them a chance to make sure they get the right change.

An app for that? Five financial apps for your teen.


It's never been easier to help your child manage spending and saving. In fact, there's an app for that.

This is great news for me, because I'm all for simplifying processes. My plan has always been to use a couple different accounts with my teen, both locally and at an online bank (where we can typically get a better interest rate). I'm also exploring options to help him put a toe into the water regarding investing. For charitable giving he uses our local gem of a resource SHARE Charlotte and periodically gives to several international charities as well. As for how much of his existing funds are designated for giving, well, that's on a regularly-updated post-it note stuck to the inside of an old, repurposed checkbook.

It's a little bit of a disjointed experience for him, so when I saw this Wall Street Journal article highlight five apps or mobile-friendly sites that can be used to help kids save, spend and donate, I decided to check it out.

All the services featured share some similarities (some are free, most have pretty low monthly or annual fees). All appear user friendly and easy to use. See below for my thoughts on their differences and when they might be the best fit.

BusyKid
BusyKid shares many features with the other apps listed but what caught my attention was the added benefit of allowing kids to buy and sell fractional shares of stock. This is done through a partnership with Stockpile. You'll be asked to open a custodial account and according to the BusyKid website there is a $2.99 fee per transaction. This feature was unique to all five services featured, so worth a look if it's something interesting for your teen. BusyKid also provides a set list of charities to which your child can donate. As of now you aren't able to add any additional charities, although that's coming in the future.

Chore Check
This is more of a straight up "chores for allowance" app. Again, it looks very easy to use. Because our family doesn't pay allowance based on specific chores, it's not a good fit for us. But it's a nice option if you are looking for something a little more straightforward without the layered functionality of some of the other apps featured.

Current
Current has several really useful features like the ability to automate allowance, limit and block spending in certain categories and automate savings by "rounding up" purchases. As for giving, if the charity your child is interested in isn't listed, the company says they are willing to add it. I also like the ability to use this with an existing bank account. Current, along with several other of these apps, also makes it easy for kids to separate their spend, save and give "wallets." That's a bigger deal than it sounds like, and much easier than trying to keep records manually.

FamZoo
This app is also a prepaid debit card with many of the benefits of Current. What I love about FamZoo is the amount of financial literacy they build into their product design and marketing. Creative touches include a parent-paid interest option, informal loan tracking (you can charge your child an interest rate if you want to), ability to set savings goals, etc. Follow founder Bill Dwight (@FamZoo) for a steady stream of good ideas around kids and financial literacy.

Greenlight
Greenlight is more of a pure spending app for your child. Key features that set it apart include the ability to pre-approve activity down to a specific store. This app will keep it simple and is great if your family already has a plan in place for saving and giving with a primary goal of finding a pre-paid card with a lot of parental control.


Now that I've spent some time with each these five services, will we be switching to any of them? Probably not. The processes we have in place now may be a little clunky, but they work pretty well for us (and they meet some other goals that we have as a family) and so we're sticking with our current systems. As for charitable giving, my teen is more of a "free range" giver, as he explores causes and methods of giving that are meaningful to him. I'd hate to limit him to a more narrow list of options.

So while I'm interested in the investing ability through BusyKid, and I particularly love the depth of FamZoo, I think we will stay with the homegrown system we currently have. If I had it to do over again, I would very likely consider these options and probably start with a deeper dive into FamZoo.

Whether you decide to go with one of these services or come up with your own system, allow me to climb on my soapbox one final time, please. Most of these apps allow kids and parents to communicate via text and online messaging, which I think is fantastic since my teen seems to forget how to dial a phone on a regular basis (but can always remember how to text). But, successful financial literacy requires lots of parent involvement. No app or online education can take the place of the coaching and conversations we should have with our kids about money and managing it successfully. Ideally, all this great tech can support that one on one time.


WhatsMyScore.org helps prep your college students for the real world

As I watch friends pack up college-aged kids and head off to campuses around the country it hit me: these kids need to have a solid foundation in financial literacy. Not just "need" like you need a good slice of pizza every once in a while, but they need it in a life-changing you-better-make-sure-you-got-this kind of way.

So while you're waiting for your first "proof of life" text or email, I hope this resource will be just the productive distraction you need.

I've already written about Visa's Practical Money Skills website in an earlier post as a great find for middle and high school aged kids. Whatsmyscore.org is Visa's offering for college students. It focuses primarily on credit but you'll find some other good stuff in there as well. 

Different parts of the site will appeal to different students depending on where they are in their college journey. The list below is divided by the stage your child is in--either a college freshman or just heading out into the real, post-college world.

New to college
Money Guides - Look here for help with renting a car, thinking about housing, saving money on textbooks and more. 
Break the Code - Quick dive into choosing the best credit card, what goes into a credit score and how to look at your credit report. If they are up for it have them look over The Facts for some quick "do's and don'ts" of credit.
Money101 Student Workbook - It's not nearly as awful as the word "workbook" makes it sound. In fact it's an easy read, full of really relevant info for kids about to be on their own for the first time, with topics like good record keeping, which I love. If you aren't comfortable walking your kid through the process when you reconcile your own bank account, this workbook has a simplified example on page 19 that will do the trick. 

Graduating college
Welcome to the Real World - Information on paperwork and taxes, budgeting and student loans. 
The Facts - Helpful even if your college graduate is comfortable with concepts around credit and debt, particularly "7 Common Mistakes That Can Lower Your Credit Score."





Mom, what if there's another recession?

Kids say the darndest things.

Along with worrying about whether or not they have a date for the homecoming dance and how to finally get rid of that acne, teens today seem to have some pretty weighty issues on their minds. The smart phone in their pocket brings the world, with its political complications and economic upheavals, right to them.

My teen is no exception. Recently he asked "Mom, what if we have another recession?"

Whether I answered his question sufficiently is up for debate, but I'll list the points I made in my response (below) along with a few resources you can use if you're faced with a similar situation.

In trying to develop financial literacy skills in my teen, I'm always working for balance. That means I'm trying not to overload him with so many details that he glazes over, but give him enough data so it's real. Although he's asking about a recession, don't get hung up on technical definitions. What he really wants to know is "will we be okay if something unexpected happens."

Here's what I told my teen.

- It's not really a question of "if" we will have another recession, but "when."
- That said, while the recession in 2008-2009 is the one many teens will be thinking about, there have been many others (here are a few).
- I told him (briefly) about the savings and loan crisis that closed the S&L in our town and the dot-com bust that came later.
- People lost jobs and money in both. But (and here was the important part as far as my teen was concerned) we came through it in the end.
- As a family we believe two ways to weather storms like a recession or crisis are to build up our emergency fund and diversify our investments.

We'd already worked through some of the resources on the #FinLit Menu for Parents (like fun this TedED video about economic bubbles and tulips). That made the whole conversation a lot easier for both of us.

VISA's Practical Money Skills provides
tips for building an emergency fund.
That's how I handled it. You might find a different or better way, based on your family's situation. However you decide to approach it, here are some resources you might find helpful.

Building an Emergency Fund
Publisher: Practical Money Skills by VISA

What causes economic bubbles? 
Publisher: TEDEd

The dot com bubble explained in one minute
Publisher: One Minute Economics

Savings and Loan Crisis
Publisher: Federal Reserve History

A Review of Past Recessions
Publisher: Investopedia

Financial Concepts: Diversification
Publisher: Investopedia

Planning for the Unexpected
Publisher: Practical Money Skills by VISA

What Causes Business Cycles?
Publisher: Practical Money Skills by VISA

Deeper Dive: Practical Money Skills by VISA

You'll find this post most helpful if:
- you're a parent with a pre-teen or teenager.
- you're looking for a one-stop solution for boosting your child's financial literacy and you're wondering if Practical Money Skills fits the bill.

Things you should know:
- Practical Money Skills is part of VISA's long-term efforts to develop education programs for people of all ages.
- The resource is free. No login or account is required.

Things I like:
- Practical Money Skills provides a huge variety of resources for teachers and individuals (or parents).

- Games. I love a good game. Check out Money Metropolis (ages 7-12) and Financial Football (ages 11 and up). Financial Football is an NFL-themed game developed by Visa in partnership with the NFL. If your child is into soccer, they've got that covered with Financial Soccer. The games are designed to be used as a classroom tool and lesson plans are provided, but parents can use them as a stand alone (fun!) activity. Use the info threaded throughout game play to spark conversations.

- A wealth of free materials including apps for everything from budgeting for prom to tracking what you spend on lunch. As for me, I'm most excited about their two comic books (featuring Marvel's Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy).

Kid-friendly resources from Practical Money Skills
- There is no shortage of good info in this section for parents as well, including primers on budgeting, prepaid credit cards and identity theft. Most can be downloaded right from the website although the comic books need to be shipped (within 3-4 weeks of ordering). I'm a Marvel geek so it will be interesting to see who gets to the mailbox first, me or my teenager.

- If you're looking for something your kid can work through on their own, start to finish, check out Your Money, Your Future. This section seems best for pre-teens and young teens. It covers the basics under the categories of earn, save, budget, spend, borrow, protect and give. These really are primers, so if your teen has some previous experience with financial education this may prove too basic.

- If you need something that's a little more in-depth look at the Learn section of the website. Because it's largely text-based (versus games) it will be a better fit for teens and young adults. Topics covered include saving, budgeting, financial institutions, credit, debt and identify theft. This is where you'll find info about the Rule of 72, compound interest and a check writing/deposit slip demo. The section on credit does a nice job of defining common terms and discussing what it takes to maintain a good credit score.

- You'll also see a section on Life Events which will be a good resource for your college-bound senior (topics include going to college and buying a car). If your teen or young adult really wants to geek out on financial terms and concepts, check out Economy 101. It's where they will find short explanations of business cycles, monetary policy, human capital and more. It's not a bad resource for parents as well. In fact, I'm heading over for a refresher course right after I finish this post.

Prepaid cards are also covered a little more than I've seen in some other resources. I have not used prepaid cards, and there are differing opinions on whether they are the best way to introduce kids to financial products. However there are a number of providers you can go through to get them. The one I hear about the most frequently is FamZoo. I have not researched their offering, but I'm happy to hear about your experiences with them if you have.

Bottom Line
Practical Money Skills by VISA has something for everyone. I really like the breadth of their offering. It will work for your pre-teen, teen or college age student. Just use the information above to zero in on the part that works best for you.

Start here: The #FinLit Menu for Parents

When my son entered his teens I started to get serious about financial literacy in a way I should have been years before.  The good new...