It’s never too early to teach your children the value of a dollar and how to manage those dollars once he or she has a number of them. With consumer debt at an all-time high among American adults, it seems the least we can do is help the next generation avoid the same problems.
Establishing sound financial habits — such as saving, budgeting and investing wisely — at an early age can give a child a real advantage when he or she transitions to independent adulthood.
But, for many grown-ups, a conversation about money — with anyone of any age — is a difficult and stressful proposition. With children, especially, parents often fear the vocabulary will be too confusing and the information will go over their heads.
Short of handing your child a piggy bank and the latest book by Suze Orman, what’s a mom or dad to do?
Fortunately, the Web offers a world of good financial information for youngsters:
- The United States Mint sponsors a site at www.usmint.gov/kids/ called “H.I.P. (short for “History In your Pocket”) Pocket Change.” Kids can browse around and get a lesson in mint history, play games like “Winter Coin Olympics” or “Dollar Dive,” and get the scoop on new collector coins being released. (For instance, currently featured on the “Coin of the Month” page is the 2010 Native American dollar coin with Sacagawea and son on one side, and The Hiawatha Belt on the reverse.)
- l PBS offers a site just for younger viewers called “It’s My Life” (http://pbskids.org/ itsmylife). Adolescents can click on “Money” and find helpful information for young would-be entrepreneurs and topics including “Spending Smarts,” “Making Money” and “Managing Money.” This month’s feature is a comprehensive how-to on baby-sitting including “everything you need to know to become the best sitter on the block.”
- Kidsbank.com, sponsored by Sovereign Bank, uses cute, cartoon characters like “Penny,” “Dollar Bill,” “Interest Ray” “Checks” the puppy and “Mr. EFT” (Electronic funds Transfer) to teach kids about “how savings, interest, checking and other banking things work.” The lessons are illustrated and simple to understand. After a tutorial on collecting interest, for example, visitors can go to the Game Room and take a quiz to find out how much information they’re retained.
- Investing for Kids (http://library. thinkquest.org/3096) is a site designed by kids for kids which examines stocks, bonds and mutual funds. It teaches the principles of saving and investing in easy-to-understand language and includes a financial quiz and stock game to challenge educators.
- Want more information? At Kids.gov, parents, teachers and kids can find a wealth of resources for elementary- and middle-school aged children. Click on the appropriate age group, then on “Money” and you’ll get a comprehensive list of financial online resources and hyperlinks.