Kids love learning about money. This makes the fact this subject is rarely taught in school more maddening.
Last week, Dina and I were privileged to go into a local middle school and teach three classes of 6th and 7th graders some money basics. Our presentation centered on debt, budgeting and investing. This was supplemented with some terrific slides created by the very talented Michael Batnick.
From the beginning, we had the students’ attention.; When they don’t hear the familiar “whaa-whaa-whaa,” (like Charlie Brown’s teacher) it immediately changes the dynamics.
I told the kids “This might be the most important lesson you will ever have.” That got the girl in the last row to stop playing on her phone and look up.
I continued, “Though many of your teachers are nice, well-meaning people who know their stuff, there is a problem. Do you ever get the feeling that most of the stuff you learn from them will NEVER be useful to you in the real world?”
Now, the hormones went into overdrive and many cried out with years of pent-up frustration, “YEAH!”
With the crowd on my side I could really go to work. I turned things up a notch. “I can tell you one thing for certain. I don’t care what career you choose; you all need to learn about money. This goes for major league baseball players to medical doctors and police officers.”
Now I was preaching to the choir. I noticed their teacher smiling. She was in seventh heaven because she realized there would be no discipline problems for the next three periods. It is amazing how interesting material can stop antisocial teen behavior in its tracks.
I continued, “Some people will tell you focusing on money will make you a selfish and greedy person. Yes, if you are already selfish, money might make your behavior worse. But, if you are good person, money will let you help more people than you ever dreamed of.”
I then went on to tell them about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; emphasizing the fact that they could each spend over a BILLION dollars a year and never worry about an empty bank account.
“Do you know what these two guys are going to do with their money when they die?” A student said “Give it to their kids?” I responded, “Absolutely not! They are going to give it to charity and save hundreds of thousands of lives. The next time somebody says to you learning about money will make you into a bad person, tell them this story.”
Game, set, and match. Now, not only did I get the attention of the kids who wanted to become rich, but also the other kids who had different motivations. They realized understanding money could also help them achieve their more altruistic goals.
I then focused on what the kids already knew about money. I chose a volunteer and she wrote the terms down after I went around the room brainstorming for one word responses. The list was quite impressive and included terms like economics, mortgage, debt, stocks, and consumers, among others. I praised them for their insights and told them that our discussion would be about the things parents often talk about.
We went through the presentation displayed on the smart board and here were some of the main messages:
- Credit cards are not bad; but do not use them unless you can pay the entire bill at the end of the month.
- Don’t buy the things the other kids are buying. Look to buy the company that makes these popular products.
- Knowing about money and making wise choices with it will help you have both a happier marriage, and better health.
- Don’t borrow a lot of money for things that are certain to go down in value, like a car.
- Start investing NOW. Ask your parents to set up an account and buy a different stock, annually.
- Do not put all of your money in one investment.
- Pay your bills on time and get a good credit score. This is more important than what you get on your S.A.T.
- If you become wealthy, use a lot of it to help other people. This has been proven to make you really happy.
- Pay your taxes or you will, end up in prison like Al Capone.
- Abby Lee Miller from “Dance Moms” was not arrested because she is mean. She did illegal things with money.
A few days after we did this presentation, a teacher in our sons’ school came up to us. She said her daughter was in the class we taught and came home all excited. She was talking about Warren Buffet and credit cards at the dinner table. This teacher was practically begging us to do this lesson at her school.
That was the best thing I heard all week. Imagine if we could figure out a way to bring this stuff into every school?
Learning about money can make the world a much better place.
If you don’t believe me, just ask these kids.
If you are interested in this program for your child’s school, let us know.