Whenever a new book lands on my desk about coaching kids to be responsible with money, I run it through my filters to see what the author has to offer.
Is the book written for parents or the kids? Is it entertaining and full of personal anecdotes or as dull as an economics textbook? Is it a quick, enjoyable read or one that will take weeks to slog through? Does the author include other useful assets, including worksheets and glossaries? Are the issues up-to-date or old-style?
As it turns out, three recently published books passed my test. All three are geared toward different audiences, and all offer different approaches to teaching kids their financial ABCs.
▪ “O.M.G. Official Money Guide for College Students” is a family affair. Susan Beacham and husband Michael Beacham, creators of the Money Savvy piggy bank, have teamed with their daughter and recent college graduate, Allison Beacham, on this book project.
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More of a pamphlet, the “Official Money Guide for College Students” ($12.95, Money Savvy Generation) is a short, breezy, 52-pager that covers important life skills. Topics include identity theft, choosing a bank, paying off student loans, off-campus versus on-campus living, budgeting and donating to charities.
What I like is the perspective of a 25-year-old two years into her after-college job. The book includes not just “major money moments” that will help students keep spending under control, but also “messy money moments,” such as the consequences of going over your credit limit and having your plastic declined at the checkout stand.
The book is all about helping students do better and know better when it comes to making money decisions. Said Allison Beacham in an email: “While I went to college with a pretty solid understanding of money, most of my peers did not even know how to write a check or how to pay a bill online. Credit was a crutch. Roommates took advantage. I avoided that train wreck because I knew better.”
▪ “How to Start Your Very First Business” provides kid-friendly advice from one of the richest and most successful men in the world — Warren Buffett. In fact, the book ($14.99, Downtown Bookworks) is a product of Buffett’s “Secret Millionaires Club,” which was created to teach kids financial literacy in creative ways.
Entrepreneurial fever is sweeping the country today, but learning to take a risk, understanding the value of honesty and other traits of successful small-business owners are often developed at an early age behind the lemonade-stand counter.
The book, geared to young readers ages 9 and up, includes worksheets, web resources and ideas on successful startups.
Here’s what Buffett had to say: “When developing a business idea, a kid should focus on answering the question ‘What does your customer want?’ A business that meets or exceeds a customer’s wants, through product or customer service or whatever it may be, is already set up for success. Success — whether it’s selling your first cup of lemonade, mowing your first lawn, or booking your first babysitting job — breeds more success.”
▪ “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not)” makes the point that parents are the prime influence on their kids’ financial behavior. You may disagree, but kids are watching and listening during most every money move.
Author Beth Kobliner aims to coach up parents on basic money skills so they can confidently help their kids develop the same good habits. Her book is not preachy — it’s plain English advice that you can adapt to your personal household situation.
Take allowances. Doling out the money doesn’t work for every family, she said. But if you are planning on giving your kids an allowance, Kobliner’s recommends following her “5 Cs”: Be clear, be consistent, give control, use cash and no chores.
Kobliner’s book (Simon & Schuster, $19.99) is due out in February.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879