When David Bianchi began putting a few thoughts on paper two years ago about money and investing, his target audience was one person — his 12-year-old son.
But by the time Bianchi finished writing, his original handful of notes had turned into a 234-page book with 165 illustrations. His recently released “Blue Chip Kids: What Every Child and Parent Should Know About Money, Investing and the Stock Market” (Wiley, $27.95) is a valuable guide to families of all incomes trying to navigate the money maze.
Most kids, Bianchi said in an interview, don’t understand the basics of money, and that’s what motivated him to expand his writing project.
“Kids need to be taught money management skills,” said Bianchi, who is not a financial expert or writer in the conventional sense. He is a long-practicing lawyer and stock market investor from Miami with an economics degree from Tufts University.
“Blue Chip Kids” is an easy-to-read book that covers 100 money and investing topics. While there’s not much depth in many of those pointers, that’s OK since the book may inspire teens to learn more. The cartoons — drawn by a high schooler who is a Bianchi relative — are entertaining and help younger readers translate the information.
The book begins with a discussion about how money plays a role in the choices we make and includes an important message — live within your means. That means spend money wisely, always save part of what you earn, and don’t fall into habits you can’t afford.
Other chapters explain the basics of borrowing money, taxes and interest rates. Bianchi also looks at buying and selling stocks, analyzing companies for investment purposes and how to pay for things using checks, debit cards and credit cards.
I like that Bianchi touches on some current financial phenomena, such as the digital currency known as bitcoins. He urges understanding and caution about bitcoins and the digital financial products to come.
Near the end of the book is a section on retirement, surely a foreign concept for a teen not yet out of high school. His message here is mostly about taking charge of your own saving and investing and having a plan that will allow you to do the things in life you want. Just don’t rely on Social Security to keep you afloat.
Bianchi said he is not “naive enough” to think that all parents have to do is toss a copy of his book into their teen’s lap. Parents also need to make a commitment to read it and talk to their kids about the material. Ten minutes a day might make a difference.
“It’s not too much to ask kids and parents to spend maybe an hour a week reading and talking” about money topics, he said.
Which leads to another takeaway from the book: Don’t sell your kids short when it comes to understanding the subject of money.
Getting smart about money may not only put tens of thousands of extra dollars in your children’s wallet over their lifetime, Bianchi said. It will help them preserve what they have earned.
“It’s the one skill that will last them from the time they are 10 to their last day on Earth.”