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Teaching Kids Everyday Money Skills

money perspective from a fifth grader

Money Perspective from a Fifth Grader

Ok, so let me start with some background. I am a banker by profession. I know a lot about the world of retail banking and money management as I worked in the field for many years, pre-family. In my current life, I am a mom to 4 boys between the ages of 10–16, so I also know a thing or two about teaching and guiding kids.

One of my kids’ teachers asked me to come into the classroom to share my job experience at the bank and to talk to the kids about money management. What a great opportunity! Both of my worlds collided in this one-hour workshop.

I didn’t take the task lightly. In my true overprepared and “crafty” fashion, I designed a game to play with the kids that would illustrate the essential need for budgeting in their life, from the lens of a banker’s hindsight. I gave each student a random but realistic annual income and we worked through taxes, expenses, and savings planning.

There was one kid whose perspective stuck out. He was the kid who received the highest income card in the game. He got an annual income of $100,000. Pretty lucky right? It was the biggest one I printed! Apparently not so lucky according to this fifth grader…

He put up his hand and said, and I quote, “How can I possibly make a budget work with this small income?” I explained that he received the highest income card I had and that he should have no problem building a budget. He tried and tried but he could not get his budget to balance. As I looked over his shoulder I was shocked at his list of fixed expenses… huge restaurant and entertainment numbers, sports activities, big clothing budgets, he even had “hot tub maintenance” as a priority.

I politely told him he would not be able to maintain the lifestyle he was outlining with $100,000/year. His response… “well then I need a bigger card please”.

I realized right then and there… there is a massive need for kids to understand money skills. Not just money math like making change and counting bills and coins, but true money skills. The kind that sticks. The kind that teaches smart money habits.

The future for that kid can go one of two ways… he works hard to make the number he needs to fund his intended lifestyle, OR he expects things to come to him without understanding the work that is required and winds up sadly falling short of all his dreams. Let’s hope for his sake it’s the first one!