What comes to mind when you hear about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?
The federal consumer watchdog agency that helped uncover millions of unauthorized banking accounts illegally opened by Wells Fargo employees in order to meet aggressive sales goals?
The regulator that has taken on payday lenders, student loan servicing companies and credit card issuers?
The agency that’s proposed a stream of new regulations for the nation’s financial marketplace and caught the wrath of some members of Congress in the process?
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Here’s what I think should also be top of mind about the bureau’s mission: Its ongoing efforts to promote financial education and teach kids about money topics.
The consumer agency’s latest education idea for kids is a book club.
The Money As You Grow book club aims to provide parents and teachers a list of recommended books — and brief discussion guides — that can help children ages 4 to 10 pick up financial concepts and issues such as setting goals, exercising self-restraint at the toy store and saving money.
The first nine books in the club include “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday,” by Judith Viorst; “Just Shopping with Mom,” by Mercer Mayer; “Ox-Cart Man,” by Donald Hall; and “The Berenstain Bears and Mama’s New Job,” by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
The bureau said it plans to build on its initial list by adding one new book each month.
The book club is found at the bureau’s Money as You Grow web page at consumerfinance.gov, which includes interactive resources and other tools about money that are appropriate for 3-year-olds to teens and young adults.
The watchdog agency doesn’t want to limit the book club just to a nighttime ritual before the lights go out. It is also partnering with public libraries around the country, providing them with book club materials that can be shared with families.
In a speech in mid-September, Richard Cordray, director of the bureau, explained why the book club is a good idea. “Embarking on a successful financial journey in life requires building the foundations of financial capability from a young age,” he said.
Unfortunately, Cordray added, “too many families avoid talking about money at all.” That can lead to kids ending up learning through the school of hard knocks, where mistakes can haunt them for the rest of their lives.
The book club makes it easier for parents to have those talks, even if they aren’t confident about expressing ideas about money.
For example, in the Berenstain Bears book, the story revolves around how chores get done around the house when the mother lands a job. After reading this book, parents can use the discussion guides to talk to their child about some of the key ideas relating to money, such as setting goals, getting paid for having a skill and buying things with that money.
Of course, you don’t have to stop with just the consumer bureau’s recommended questions and talking points.
The more questions you ask, the more your youngster will learn. That’s the key to success.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879