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Check out these financial lessons organized by age

By STEVE ROSEN
The Kansas City Star

I get this question a lot from parents: What money skills are age appropriate for my children?

What they really want to know is when allowances should be introduced, or what’s a good age to explain wants and needs, or when should I broach the dangers of credit cards?

So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a new list — endorsed by a federal commission — of 20 age-appropriate financial lessons for children.

“Money As You Grow — 20 Things Kids Need to Know to Live Financially Smart Lives” can be found at MoneyAsYouGrow.org.

The list was created by the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and covers some of the usual topics: wants and needs, comparison shopping, compound interest, investment risk and using credit cards responsibly.

And, in a sign of the times, there are two pointers dealing with identity theft.

There’s little financial jargon involved in the point-by-point discussions, which is a plus. But the most valuable parts are the simple exercises and activities linked with each money concept. There are even links to websites for more information.

It’s no secret that many teens and young adults are unprepared to deal with even basic money issues. Survey after survey points this out. As for talking about money at home or at school, it can be hit-and-miss.

That’s why the council was created in 2010 with the objective of “finding ways to improve the financial responsibility of young Americans.”

The council comprises 13 educational nonprofits and government organizations such as Junior Achievement, the American Savings Education Council, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The 20 financial lessons — the end result of more than a year of research — are drawn from dozens of standards, curriculums and academic studies, according to the advisory council.

The lessons are organized by age: 3- to 5-year olds, 6 to 10, 11 to 13, 14 to 18, and 18 and up.

For very young children, the concepts start with simply identifying coins and gradually working up to an introduction to wants and needs.

Children ages 6 to 10 at some point need to understand the value of comparing prices before spending their money. And this is the time, according to the experts, to introduce the importance of protecting your personal information when visiting websites.

Teenagers should develop an understanding of taxes on their paychecks, college costs and why to avoid using a credit card to buy things you can’t afford. There’s an additional layer of credit card information that youths 18 and older should grasp — the impact that debt can have on your credit history and ability to land a job.

The list has drawn criticism from some financial educators who believe the benefits of saving money are not clearly established with younger children. But the commission says its list is still a work in progress and feedback is welcomed. It’s also not the only guide out there. Check out the nonprofit JumpStart Coalition’s list at www.jumpstart.org.

While “Money As You Grow” may not be perfect, it still offers families a way to measure how well their kids are learning the financial ABCs. Better yet, it might spark something that could be even more educational — a conversation.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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