Kids & Money

Presidential debates highlight the need to understand the language of money

A lot of financial and business jargon gets thrown around in presidential debates. If your kids don’t understand the vocabulary, it’s time to enlighten them.
A lot of financial and business jargon gets thrown around in presidential debates. If your kids don’t understand the vocabulary, it’s time to enlighten them. The Associated Press

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have peppered the presidential debates with points, counterpoints and exclamation points about America’s entrepreneurial spirit, Obamacare, the stock market, international trade, the tax code and much, much more.

They’re speaking in the language of money. Do your kids understand any of the vocab?

I bet many of them do not, based on my visits to classrooms over the years. I’ve had students ask me to explain what “entrepreneur” meant, or what the “stock market” meant. “Obamacare” is a guaranteed puzzler.

When your teen or middle-schooler hears basic business and economic terms being tossed around during the campaign coverage and they don’t understand the terminology, they can easily become even more disenfranchised from what is going on.

And it doesn’t take much for kids to disengage from all of this noise in the first place.

Yet, in these very complicated economic times, it’s important for kids to get familiar with basic money terms. All their education won’t help them move along in life if they don’t have the money terminology down.

That’s a problem, but it also made me think it’s one that can easily be corrected by taking a kid-friendly approach to defining basic business and money terms. And you don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winner in economics.

To get you started, here are a few definitions and talking points that you can meld and mold to your liking to help your youngster continue to learn from what is being played out on television.

▪ What is an “entrepreneur?”

It’s the guy who owns the lawn-care business that tends to your yard, the neighbor who developed software for home health care, the husband and wife team who created a line of clothing, and the 20-something who runs the coffee shop across from the middle school.

I’d describe entrepreneurs as people who works on their own, an alternative to working for a company or joining a profession, like law or medicine. Entrepreneurs take risks and make difficult choices to create a product or service that will make money.

Think of entrepreneurs another way: Many successful business empires were started in a garage or a college dorm with an idea, a lot of hope and little money. Apple, Microsoft and Dell come to mind. And don’t forget Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest people, who started picking stocks at age 13.

▪ What is a “stock?”

Many companies sell stock to the public because they need money to run their business. Owning a share in a company means you own part of that company. It could be McDonald’s, or Nike, or Facebook. And as an owner, you are entitled to a share of the money your company makes after it pays the bills and expenses.

If you’re a shareholder in Nike, for example, it means you stand to profit each time someone buys a pair of shoes or a T-shirt. But owning stock also means you could lose your money if the business performs poorly. So there’s an element of chance.

▪ What is “Obamacare?”

This probably isn’t the time to mention premiums, deductibles, health care exchanges and other insurance jargon. Instead, focus on explaining that Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, is a set of complex laws that help families cover the cost of flu shots, doctor and dental checkups, hospital stays, and medicines that provide relief from allergies, diabetes and such.

You might also add that the law was designed as a safety net to help people who don’t have money in their budgets to pay for health care.

In trying to figure out how to define the vocabulary, keep it simple and peel away as much of the money and business-speak as possible. And, as hard as it might be, avoid making judgments unless your kids are ready for a debate. They will eventually figure things out on their own.

Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879