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Why We Should be Teaching Kids about Money

Talk about an authentic math lesson…

Today my students and I went to the grocery store.

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It was so powerful watching my students interact with the shopkeepers, compare produce prices, weigh vegetables to make sure they have the right amount, and even stress out when the store doesn’t have what they need or they go over their projected budget.

I started thinking about how important money is in our everyday lives and how little we touch on financial concepts in school.  We are living in an age of mortgages, credit, and student loans. Where job security and long-term employment, (complete with retirement fund), are no longer the norm. Financial literacy is timely and essential for every individual no matter their chosen field.

When I was growing up, the topic of money was very taboo in my family.  It was considered rude to ask about money and the cost of something like a family vacation or new skates. My brother and I started making our own money at around twelve or thirteen years old with weekend, evening and summer jobs, this carried on throughout school and into our post-secondary educations.  A work ethic was something we never lacked. We were very good at making money. But because we were essentially forbidden to talk about money as kids and because we weren’t explicitly taught about money in school, we never learned to manage it properly.  We did not have basic financial skills like budgeting, saving, or investing.

This summer I read a book that will hopefully help me get my ducks in order now that I am debt free and able to save and invest.  Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School taught me everything I should have been taught once I started making my own money. (And a couple of things that wouldn’t have hurt me to know before then.) Up to this point I had read several books designed to instruct or inspire financial independence, but this was the first one that really clicked and deepened my understanding of what I should be doing to secure my future.  It is written by Andrew Hallam (read his bio), a teacher at Singapore American School who wrote his book in response to the lack of sound financial lessons in schools.

As a teacher I try to create authentic opportunities for math learning for my students.  Now that we have visited the grocery store, my students are enthusiastic to start their own pretend grocery shop in our classroom.

If you are a parent, please take your kids shopping. Talk about comparing prices and the value of the yen (or dollar, or euro, etc.) Let your kids help you budget your next family vacation. Give them an allowance and take them to the bank to put a percentage into a savings account.  (Read this snippet from Daniel Pink’s Drive first.) Have them save up for something they really want. Show them how you are saving for their college or university and talk about why you’re saving now when your child is only in second grade. Even talk about retirement, (yours and theirs), and what people do to prepare.

(Apologies if some of these topics are based on North American financial issues and values.)

How do you teach your students or children about money?