Month: June 2022

Teach Kids Money and Math with Monopoly

Is Monopoly useful to teach kids about money? Yes! However, I found that money is a secondary skill.

Last week, for Family Board Game Day we played Monopoly. My wife had found the Nintendo version in a yard sale for $1. (The game was in perfect condition, except that it didn’t have the instructions. They were easy enough to find online.) Instead of Boardwalk and Park Place, we worked with Mario and Luigi. It’s a classic rebranding that Hasbro has done thousands of times with Monopoly. Since my kids love Nintendo, the Monopoly version was doubly appealing to them.

At ages 8 and 9, they are the perfect age for Monopoly (Official suggestion 8+). We had played Monopoly Junior with them when they were 5 and 6, but I never liked it. Doing all the money transactions electronically didn’t feel like Monopoly. I’m much happier playing the real thing now.

monopoly teach kids money
monopoly teach kids money

Monopoly is More about Math than Money

Everyone thinks of Monopoly as a money game. It is, but I was blown away by all the math that we were doing. I’ve been using a credit card for so long that I don’t do a lot of cash transactions. We were doing all sorts of math to make change. For example, often when I had to pay a rent of $14, I’d give a $20 and my kids would have to give me $6 back. One time, I paid $102 for a $52 rent. The kid knew that I did it so that I would get a $50 bill back.

As we played longer, the math became more complex. Instead of dealing with rents under $30, the houses and hotels had us doing math with hundreds of dollars. That’s great place value practice especially now that the kids are out of school for the summer.

What About Monopoly’s Money Lessons?

It was just the kids’ first game of Monopoly. They played it very cautiously and saved their money until they landed on the premium properties. As a result, my wife and I were able to gobble up whatever properties we landed on. We had the unfair advantage of years of experience. I also had an extraordinary amount of luck the whole game.

Once most of the properties were owned, we started trading. This is where younger kids can learn the art of negotiation. My youngest son traded two of the greens for my Luigi (Park Place) to complement his Mario (Boardwalk). After the game, I explained that having three properties for other people to land on is better than two. Getting back to math for a second, this conversation dipping our toes into probability.

We didn’t get into real estate discussions like the landlord, renter relationship. We did cover how to mortgage the properties in the context of the game. However, we didn’t get into the common use of how a mortgage works because you can’t get a 30-year fixed to buy Marvin Gardens.

From a money perspective, there was still a lot going on. We were all making change all game long. We were buying assets and even selling them to other players. One of the things that’s great about money games is that it is a fun way for young children to get a basic financial education.

Final Thoughts on the Monopoly Game

For this age group, it’s hard to beat Monopoly. The worst part of the game is that it takes a very long time to play. I’ve been a little more focused on my kids’ math skills than their money management skills, but Monopoly gives us both at once. Even if you can’t find it at a yard sale for a dollar, it is still one of the best purchases you can make. You can buy Monopoly on Amazon here. I suggest teaming it with the Game of Life that covers more real-world situations such as having a career and earning a salary.

For more ideas, visit our list of best money games.

Make a “Things I Like” List for Kids

This is our “Kid Life” first article. The idea of Kid Life is to take a step back and realize that a wealthy life isn’t always about money.

School is out and summer is here. That means many kids will be home looking for things to do. We had a little break before camps start, so we did a couple of staycations. (Hence, why there have been fewer articles here lately, but we’re back and articles will be more regular now.) During those vacations, I got to reflect on all the things our kids have done. Then I realized there were still so many things that they haven’t done.

I did what comes naturally and started a spreadsheet. It was blank with a heading of “Things I’ve Done” and next to it “Enjoyment (1-10)”. I left a lot of boxes and below that, I put, “Things I Want To Do” and “Priority (1-10)”. I had to explain what priority meant, but the rest was easy for them to pick up. My 9-year-old came up with about 15 things and my 8-year-old came up with about 10. I helped with several items by throwing out anything I knew they did off the top of my head, “Karate, Snowboarding, creating comic strips, etc.”

If you were to ask me if my kids like a specific thing, I could answer you and be accurate about 90% of the time. However, it’s different to put it all on paper. That’s where you get to see what you should try to do more of. For example, my 9-year-old loved archery, but when COVID happened the classes ended and we never picked up on it again.

I took all the things they wrote and edited out the nonsense (watching TV and video games were both 10s on the “enjoyment” scale). I typed them all back into the spreadsheet, leaving plenty of room to add more. This first draft was very helpful, but I had bigger ideas. I did a Google search for “bucket list for kids” and clicked on some of the top results. Each page had about a hundred ideas of things for kids to do. Some were simple things like “roll down a hill”, which I didn’t find very useful. Others were “learn to play the piano.” It was easy to cut and paste these lists into a spreadsheet.

This is when my 9-year-old surprised me. He came up with a code for each one. A check meant that they did it and a circle meant that they haven’t done it. A plus meant that they want to do it and a minus meant that they didn’t want to do it. It was easy to see that “Swim with Dolphins” was far more popular than “Climb a mountain”.

I then asked them to take their thoughts from this and put them into the other spreadsheet. This second version is very good now. Some of the items are difficult bucket list items, but that’s okay. For example, “tour the White House” is a lot tougher than “go whale watching”. (Whale watching isn’t difficult in Rhode Island.) While I was hoping to get more skill items like “get a black belt in karate” all of these one-time experiences are useful too.

One thing that didn’t come up directly in this exercise is money. I purposely left it out. I didn’t want the kids to lose focus on what they wanted. As we start to narrow down the lists, we can talk about budgeting, planning, and saving for the things we really want.

Week’s Best in Kid Money (#8)

This week we have a small nomenclature change. Instead of the title “Week’s Best from Kid Wealth”, I’m updating it to Week’s Best in Kid Money. It’s much more accurate as my goal is to highlight what’s going on in the world of kid money. The way it was before, it sounded like I was highlighting the best articles I’ve written that week.

  • Michigan Becomes 14th State to Require Personal Finance Education

    Just last month, I wrote about Rhode Island requiring personal finance classes for high school graduation. This week, we can Michigan to the list.

    I always celebrate anything that advances children’s financial literacy. In this case, Michigan is mandating a half credit. I would prefer more, but it’s a good start. A high school curriculum is always packed, so there is always a trade-off in some other subject.

    I would highlight Michigan’s official financial literacy resource page, but it is… not great. Rhode Island financial literacy resource page is much better.

  • Baby Boomers vs Millennials

    I liked this article from Blue Tree Savings that explores how financial circumstances have changed for the two generations. When you look at just the financial differences it seems like Baby Boomers had life much better with lower educational costs, housing costs, and actual pension plans. However, as the article points out, Millennials aren’t as frugal as Baby Boomers were.

    One could probably write a book on all the differences if you include some non-financial ones. For example, Millennials haven’t had to deal with wars. Baby Boomers grew up with black and white televisions that had a few channels and Millennials can walk around with a tablet that can stream almost any kind of media that’s ever been published on demand. Not only that, but it can play video games, control gadgets around the house, and look up just about any information known in the history of the world. You can buy such a device for less than $50 from Amazon including the 8″ FIRE HD tablet available this weekend.

  • “Personal finance class should be required in high school”
    That’s the title of the Editorial Board in this Washington Post paywall article.

    It starts off with this line:

    One of the best gifts state and local lawmakers and teachers can give graduating high school students is a solid financial education.

    And it ends with this one:

    Personal finance should be as core to a high school education as Shakespeare and algebra.

    I couldn’t agree more and fortunately, this is an area where progress is being made literally almost every month.

    Now we just have to find a way to make it so that everyone has access to great articles like these and not just those who are wealthy enough to pay multiple newspaper subscriptions.

The Lemonade War (Book Review)

The Lemonade War

A couple of weeks ago, the whole family was at the local church fair, when my oldest son saw a book – The Lemonade War. He snatched it and said, “I’m getting this for my brother.” My kids often read similar books – they are 15 months apart in age. Usually, their love of books revolves around graphic novels such as Captain Underpants, Dogman, or Wimpy Kid. This was different. I HAD to figure out what it was. For 75 cents we picked up three books in the Lemonade War series with The Lemonade War being the first book (obviously).

I would soon find out that it was part of the third-grade curriculum at school. Author Jacqueline Davies somehow wrote about our family 15 years ago. Here’s her brief video trailer for the book (we’ll cover a lot more than what’s in this video):


The Lemonade War trailer from Jacqueline Davies on Vimeo.

Lemonade War Plot Summary

The Lemonade War is a story of sibling rivalry and entrepreneurial spirit. (You knew it had to be about money and business to be featured on Kid Wealth, right?) Ten-year-old Evan Treski is having a bad summer ever since he found out his younger sister, Jessie was going to skip a grade. That would put her in Evan’s class. The two siblings are 14 months apart and Evan doesn’t want to share his fourth grade with his little sister. Jessie is a math wiz and Evan can hear it now, “Evan, why can’t you do math like your little sister?”

So that’s why my oldest son, entering the fourth grade, wanted his brother to read it. They both get great grades, but there are some things that our youngest is just a natural at. It drives his older brother batty. Just like Jessie in the book, he’s just trying to live his life and do his best. Fortunately, they’ll be in separate grades, so we don’t have the problem that Evan and Jessie do.

This sibling rivalry leads the Lemonade War characters to make a bet. The person who sells the most lemonade in 5 days gets the other person’s money. The book’s fourteen chapters alternate between the two characters’ perspectives. In the battle of the lemonade stands will Jessie’s math-smart skills win? Or will Evan’s people-smart skills make him the Lemonade King?

Jessie has savvy marketing tips, while Evan has to resort to diagrams to solve math problems that Jessie could do in her head. Evan’s people skills help him get to a nearly insurmountable lead. Jessie creates a franchise model to quickly close the gap. The different approaches to the siblings’ lemonade sales make it a fun read.

The chapters start with definitions of business terms. They are named Slump, Breakup, Joint Venture, Partnership, Competition, Underselling, Location/Location/Location, Going Global, Negotiation, Malicious Mischief, A Total Loss, Waiting Period, Crisis Management, and Reconciliation. The chapters aren’t designed to teach you about the business term. It’s a fictional book that’s mostly about sibling rivalry, so it would be up to the parent or teacher to reinforce the concepts. There is The Lemonade War Teacher’s Guide, but it doesn’t focus very well on the business topics.

Perhaps the best money lessons come at the end of the book:

Ten Tips for Turning Lemons into Loot

Ironically, the kids never actually used real lemons, just cans of lemonade. Nonetheless, together they learned these ten business lessons:

  1. Location – It all starts with where you put your lemonade stand.
  2. Advertising – Make sure your lemons stand out.
  3. Underselling – Cheap! Cheaper! Cheapest lemons in town!
  4. Goodwill – How to make people love your lemons.
  5. Value-added – Giving your lemons that something extra.
  6. Business Regulations – Be sure you know your local lemon laws.
  7. Profit Margins – How to calculate the limits on your lemons.
  8. Franchises – How thirteen lemons can earn more than one.
  9. Going Mobile – Take your lemons on the road.
  10. Employee Appreciation – Don’t be a sour boss – always say thank you to your workers.

The book ends with one loose thread that isn’t resolved. That serves as the cliff hanger for the next book in the series, The Lemonade Crime. The rest of the series is The Bell Bandit, The Candy Smash, The Magic Trap, The Bridge Battle (pre-order). I’ve only read The Lemonade War so far, but in reading reviews of the other books it doesn’t seem like they help kids develop money skills. There are other things to learn in the other books, and as long as my kids are reading, I consider that a win.

Overall, the best thing about this book is that it’s an enjoyable read and the topic is perfect for the start of summer vacation. It didn’t even occur to my 9-year-old to mention it to me as a “money book” such as American Girl’s Smart Guide to Money. It’s a subtle way to sneak some extra business lessons. Add The Lemonade War to your book collection today.

The Lemonade War’s Official Book Description and Awards

I hope my review was helpful to you in figuring out if The Lemonade War is right for you or your kid. Sometimes, I find that the author’s back-cover blurb is useful.

For a full hour, he poured lemonade. The world is a thirsty place, he thought as he nearly emptied his fourth pitcher of the day. And I am the Lemonade King.

Fourth-grader Evan Treski is people-smart. He’s good at talking with people, even grownups. His younger sister, Jessie, on the other hand, is math-smart, but not especially good with people. She knows that feelings are her weakest subject. So when their lemonade war begins, there is no telling who will win – or even if their fight will ever end. Brimming with savvy marketing tips for making money at any business, definitions of business terms, charts, diagrams, and even math problems, this fresh, funny, emotionally charged novel subtly explores how arguments can escalate beyond anyone’s intent.

Awards 2009 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, 2007 New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, North Carolina Children’s Book Award 2011, 2011 Nutmeg Award (Connecticut) Check out www.lemonadewar.com for more information on The Lemonade War Series, including sequels The Lemonade Crime, The Bell Bandit, and The Candy Smash.

If You Made a Million (Book Review)

I’m on vacation, so I’m going to resurface this early article from Kid Wealth. Check back for fresh content later in the week.

Have you ever heard of If You Made a Million by David M. Schwartz? It’s illustrated by Steven Kellogg who happens to have written and illustrated one of my wife’s favorite books, The Mysterious Tadpole. My wife read it when she was a little girl. Our kids are very familiar with Alphonse.

By now you may have realized that If You Made a Million is not about helping adults understand money. It’s about helping children. But please don’t click away just yet. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 2 years, it’s that adults can learn quite a bit from children’s books.

Let’s dig into what makes If You Made a Million so special. (By the way, I was not paid to write this review. I simply saw it at the library. I will however make a small commission if you purchase the book from the above link.)

If You Made a Million

Before I get started with the review, let’s get a very important number out there: 1989. That’s when If You Made a Million was written. Yes, the book is as old as Taylor Swift. It is also three years older than Your Money or Your Life, which is often considered the first FIRE book. It was also written 6 years before Suze Orman wrote her first book.

Being old doesn’t make things good. (This blog is living proof of that.) Let’s get to the actual content.

Overall, the book takes a child on a journey of earning and spending money. It starts with feeding a fish a penny, which will allow you to buy one of a shyster’s pebbles. It continues to educate children about coins with increasingly more difficult jobs and ways to spend the money. These first few pages are fairly boring, but they go quickly since there’s only a sentence or two on each page. It’s important to build that foundation.

Once you get into earning a dollar, the book tells the story of compound interest. Here’s the first one:

At ten dollars, the compound interest story gets a little more exciting:

At one thousand dollars, the idea of checks and how they work is introduced. It’s simply much easier than carrying around a wheelbarrow of coins or even a bunch of bills.

At fifty thousand dollars, we learn about how mortgages work:

There’s a little more to mortgages. Specifically, it shows how you keep giving money to the bank year after year for 40 years. The illustrations show the old man still physically bringing his check to the bank for his castle payment. It also explains that this time, you are the one paying interest to the bank.

Finally, we get to the FIRE part of the book. It only takes six sentences. The first four are:

“If you have some very expensive plans, you may have to take on a tough job that pays well.
If you think ogre-taming would be an exciting challenge, you can have fun and make a great deal of money, too.
Of course, you may not enjoy taming obstreperous ogres or building bulky bridges, or painting purple pots.
Enjoying your work is more important than money, so you should look for another job or make less expensive plans.”

Remember what I wrote before about adults learning from children’s books? That last sentence is “Exhibit A” of that.

I promised you six sentences. Here’s two more:

Did you catch the financial independence message there? Having that kind of passive income gives you the option to not work at all, but maybe you should choose the work that interests you because doing nothing could be boring.

There’s a quick concluding page after that to get children’s minds thinking about what they’d do if they made a million dollars.

Final Thoughts on If You Made a Million

I found it surprising how well the math from 1989 holds up today. The banks aren’t paying 5.25% interest like the examples. However, we often work with similar (or even larger) interest rates assuming more risk and different asset allocations.

Also, the one million number at the end might not seem like enough today. However, it is $2,034,157.94 in 2018 dollars. You’ll often see $2 million as the target number for FIRE, so the one million number from 1989 is solid.

After the story ends, there’s a significant section of “A Note from the Author.” Here you get about 1500 words on each of the themes in the book: why money, how banks work, interest and compound interest, checks and checking accounts, loans, and income tax.

Finally, there’s a huge explanation of how he calculated some of the amazing numbers used in the book. These are things like a million dollars in pennies will stack 95 miles high and a million dollars in quarters would way as much as a whale. If you love geeky math, this is fun, but you could choose to skip it and still get all the financial lessons.

I loved If You Made a Million so much that I decided to buy it. We’ve read it about every year for a few years now.

Originally published on: Jan 11, 2022 at 13:39

Week’s Best from Kid Wealth (#7)

Another week is in the books and summer is here. My kids say that I still have to wait a few days for it to be officially here, but it’s close enough for me. We’re going on a staycation for a few days to get some hiking and ocean time in. (Anything to get them away from video games for a bit.)

This week, I wanted to highlight a couple of articles. There’s this one on CNBC that explains why financial literacy is so important for kids. I loved how it divided kids into four stages and which money lessons they should learn in each.

In other news, my kids are starting to watch the Simpsons. It’s fun to go back and see the old episodes about stealing pay cable and see their clunky desktop monitors. It’s probably a little too old for them, but I’m hoping the more adult stuff will go over their heads. I’m focusing more on the humor and history. Finally, they are figuring out where I get so many one of my one-liners.

I came across an NPR podcast about The Simpsons and how their finances stack up today. The last episode of the season addresses it in some detail. If you have Hulu, it’s worth a watch with your tween or teen kids.

There’s a tremendous song about how the economy has changed since when the Simpsons first went on the air. (Not that it was realistic back then either.) It goes by fast, so you might want to read the lyrics from the transcript.

How Can Kids Make Money?

At some point, your kid will want to make money. They want some kind of toy and realize that they need money for that toy. Your kid will try the easy way out and ask you to buy it. Maybe they’ll try to annoy you until you cave and buy it.

Hopefully, you can redirect them and explain that they can earn the toy if they make money to buy it. When kids learn how to make money it opens a lot of doors. Suddenly, they can save and invest in a Kid Roth IRA and build a million-dollar retirement. The kids will be focused on toys, so parents, you’ll have to match their income, put it aside, and invest it for them.

Younger Kids Making Money

Kids Make Money

I believe that kids should do chores for the good of the family, not for money. Everyone in the family needs to work together and pitch in. I also believe that you should give kids an allowance. They need to learn how to make money mistakes. I feel it is very important not to tie the allowance to chores. You don’t want to give your kid the power to quit chores by choosing to give up their allowance.

With younger kids, a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant just isn’t an option. If they are really young, the best way for kids to make extra money is at home doing extra chores. The difficulty I have is consistently finding chores that they can do which aren’t part of their normal responsibilities. My 8-year-old is tremendous at building stuff, so he puts together anything we buy with “assembly required.” I supervise and sometimes join in, but he can do many projects by himself.

Making Money for Tweens and Teens

When the kids get older, they can do neighborhood chores for extra cash. My kids are too young for this now but I recently started following the local community using the Nextdoor App. I think I could look to advertise for my kids. The app may have a minimum age requirement, so it is probably necessary to have parents’ permission or assistance anyway.

Babysitting

Babysitting is a time-tested teen job. We’ve started to get some younger babies on our street – this is something I’ll revisit in about five years. My kids will be in the 8th grade and those other kids will be 5 or 6.

Pet Sitting & Dog Walking

I run a dog boarding service from our house using Rover.com. When the kids are older, I wouldn’t mind moving more of the responsibility and payment to them. It’s not terribly complicated, especially if you’ve lived with dogs your whole life as they have.

Yard Sale

We really need to host a yard sale this summer. It’s not about making money. I find that yard sales are more about responsibly decluttering and aren’t big money makers. (Maybe my stuff isn’t so great.) Yard sales are a great place for kids to set up a lemonade stand and sell baked goods.

Cooking and Selling at a Farmer’s Market

A bake sale can certainly make money, but my wife and kids are planning to step it up a notch. My 9-year-old loves to cook, but he’s taken an especially big interest in making dog biscuits. I showed him Ryans Barkery from Shark Tank and the first step is duplicating that at the local level. My wife had some plans to make cookies and brownies that they could sell together.

Playing Video Games on Twitch

This is a little like YouTube as one of the ways kids make money. The big money is made by Ryan’s World, but it’s a crowded space. Any good entrepreneur knows that a good barrier to entry is necessary to keep competition down. If it were easy to make money playing video games every kid would be rich, right?

Your Dad’s Blog

Wait, not every dad has a blog? It’s just me?!?!

Other Ideas

Kids can always wash cars, mow lawns or tutor younger neighborhood kids in subjects they can use a little extra help with.

Get Started Making Money

The most important thing is to get started trying something. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. It’s fine to make some mistakes and learn along the way. No one starts off as an expert, they reiterate and try to improve a little each time.

This article is a perfect example of that. The topic of kids making money is so big there are entire entrepreneur courses such as The Simple Startup. I’m not going to wait for this article to be perfect to publish. I’ll publish it now and revisit, revise, and republish in the future.

Week’s Best from Kid Wealth (#6)

It was a tough week in our house. My wife got back from two weeks of work travel and tested positive for COVID. Instead of having some help with the kids, we went into nurse mode. Fortunately, she just needed rest and is back to normal today. Also, it’s much easier to take care of the kids at ages 8 and 9 now. They can do a lot of things for themselves. It would help to have a trusted kid-friendly Uber service to shuttle them to various after-school practices though.

Just as soon as my wife exited COVID protocol, my 9-year-old entered it. He feels fine and is actually enjoying watching TV and video games all day. This finishes off the school year for him, so we’ll let him enjoy this break before summer camps start up. Hopefully, I’ll get more time to write this week.

On a digital housekeeping note, reader Everett won our Tween/Teen Entrepreneur Course giveaway. Thanks to all those who entered.

Here’s what I liked this week:

I hope to be back to publishing this quick weekly round-up on Friday’s. It may be a little more difficult as the summer gets busy.

Best Money Board Games

Today’s article is a work-in-progress. My wife’s tested positive for COVID (she’s vaccinated and boosted, so just needs rest) and we had a few big emergencies come up. There are a ton of board games that can help kids learn about money. For now, we’ll cover a few. In the coming months, I’ll revise it adding more games.

Board games are a great way to teach kids about money. Why not learn basic money management during family game night?

When you think about the best money board games, Monopoly instantly comes to mind. However, Monopoly isn’t the only “game” in town. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Best Money Board Games

Best Money Board Games for Younger Kids

Allowance by LakeShore

The best board game to teach your kids about money is LakeShore’s Allowance Game. You earn money for doing things like mowing the lawn, but you can lose money if you break a window. Like all the other board games you use play money which is good for learning math concepts like addition and subtraction. This one adds coins to the mix which is great for learning decimals.

Official Recommend Age: 5-11
Our Recommended Age: 5-11
Players: 2-4

You can find Allowance on Amazon here

Money Bags Coin Value Game

This is path/journey game (like Candyland or Sum Swamp) that involves counting coins and making change. In addition to money, players will learn addition and subtraction.

Lessons:
Coins
Making Change
Early Math Skills (addition, subtraction)
Official Recommend Age: 5-11
Our Recommended Age: 4-8
Players: 2-4

You can find Money Bags Coin Value on Amazon here.

The Game of Life

Many people forget about the classic game of Life as a money board game. It’s a game that whole family can play, Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but a friend had a newer version of Life and I didn’t like very much.

My favorite thing about Life is the career choice at the very beginnning of the game. Unfortunately, we live in a world where financial success depends greatly on the career path that one chooses. In the classic version of this game, you can’t directly choose a career in Life, but you can choose to go to college to set yourself up with higher earning career paths.

Lessons:
Career Choice
Early Math Skills (addition, subtraction)

You can find The Game of Life on Amazon here.

Honorable Mention Money Game for Kids

Not all games have to deal directly with money to build money skills. Money skills are often closely related to math skills. That’s why it can also be good to look into Uno (make sure the kids do the scoring).

Dishonorable Mention Money Game for Kids

Cashflow and Cashflow for Kids

This game is by the creator of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. While some find it to be an inspirational book, experts have criticized it and labeled it one of the worst personal finance books. Additionally, author Rober Kiyosaki recommends VERY bad ideas that can get people into tons of big credit card debt.

I only know a few people who have played the game for older kids and they didn’t give it good reviews. At $80, it is the most expensive game here. I think Rich Dad is just looking to get rich off of you.