January 2023

Schoolhouse Rock: Money Rock Teaches Kids about Money

Decades ago, Schoolhouse Rock famously taught millions of kids how a bill became a law and how parts of speech work. I’m Just a Bill and Conjunction Junction are in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame (if there was one). Don’t forget Three is a Magic Number because it rounds out the three most popular Schoolhouse Rock videos.

However, did you know that Schoolhouse Rock also taught kids about money? It was released in 1994, over two decades after the Multiplication Rock that started it all. It’s not very well-known. When ABC does it’s Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong on February 1st, there, sadly, will be no money songs.

I found the DVD of Schoolhouse Rock Money Rock in my library. If you are a Disney+ subscriber, it’s easier to stream it for free. Another option is to watch it on YouTube. The quality of the videos is poor, but better than nothing:

Each of the Money Rock shorts is three minutes long. In about the time that you’d watch a half-hour sitcom, you have a personal finance education. Well, it’s more complicated. The videos go quickly to fit it all in three minutes. The explanation of Dollar Cost Averaging in the investing video is good, but the concept can’t be addressed in only fifteen seconds.

The best thing to do is watch these with the kids and talk about them afterward. My kids had questions about each one. It’s a good hour spent and makes for an easy transition into other Schoolhouse Rock seasons.

Here’s a summary of each episode:

Dollars and Sense

Becky Sue realizes that her ukelele isn’t going to work if she wants to be a country western star. She needs a guitar, amps, speakers, microphones, etc.

The banker is there to help. He explains that if Becky deposits her money, the bank will pay her interest, and she’ll have enough for the equipment in a year.

Becky doesn’t want to wait a year, so the banker explains that she can take a loan and get the equipment immediately. The catch is that she now has to pay the interest.

Dollars and Sense is one of my favorite lessons. Kids learn that interest can either work for you or against you.

My 9-year-old didn’t understand why someone would have to pay the bank interest on the loan. I tried to explain that the bank has to make money. Giving money and just hoping to get paid back in the future isn’t helpful to the bank.

Tax Man Max

Tax Man Max explains taxes. It went quickly, and I had to pause and reply a few times to catch the different types it portrayed: Income, property, sales, utilities, and licenses for dogs and cats.

This does an excellent job of explaining that taxes fund the city, state, and federal governments so that we have schools, roads, train tracks, libraries, police, firefighters, and mail carriers.

There was a quick explanation that people get upset about paying taxes, so they rightfully want to know that the money is being used well.

Finally, there’s a quick explanation of how tax deductions work. While accurate, a one-liner on tax deductions does not provide much education for kids.

Where the Money Goes

Kids learn where the parents’ money goes: taxes, mortgage (house), groceries, car, etc.

This did an outstanding job of telling kids that they can help by saving money on the phone bill, electricity, and even the laundry by not making a mess.

One part I didn’t like is that it mentioned, “If you plan to inherit a million dollars, then there’s no reason to save.” Even in 1994, that may not have been retirement money. You never know what can go wrong with inheritance plans.

$7.50 Once a Week

How does a kid budget his allowance of $7.50 a week? At the beginning of the week, he feels rich.

He budgets an ice cream sandwich after school lunch at $0.50 a day or $2.50 per week. However, he spends the rest of money his money too quickly. He missed opportunities to compare prices and save money.

The kid decides he can do other jobs to make some more money from his parents.

Tyrannosaurus Debt

Why do kids need to learn about the National Debt? I’m not sure.

My kids had questions, and I explained that we borrowed money and should pay it back. However, I didn’t want them to be concerned that the United States owes 31 trillion dollars. Japan’s GDP to Debt is twice the United States. I also didn’t want them to think it was okay to borrow money and not pay it back. It’s probably best to avoid this topic with kids.

Despite the success of I’m Just a Bill, there are many adults who don’t know how a bill becomes a law. Nonetheless, it’s videos like this (and I’m Just a Bill) are useful tools to send to adults. As a bonus, Bill from I’m Just a Bill appears at the end.

This for That

This episode is about the history of how bartering worked with cavemen.

It’s hard to trade yaks for cows because they are big and bulky. Shiny shells are easier.

Mesopotamia invented metal coins. China invented paper money. Columbus bartered beads with Native Americans.

We still barter today. Sports teams barter players, and kids barter Pokemon cards.

Walkin’ on Wall Street

A pigeon teaches kids to buy low and sell high. Using your money to make more money is called an investment. Kids learn about what a stock is. There’s a very quick explanation of Dollar Cost Averaging.

One fun part of this video is that the pigeon gets stock quotes in fractions from a newspaper. Nowadays, stock prices are in decimals, and I don’t think papers publish the prices.

The Check’s in the Mail

Overall, this episode wasn’t very useful. We don’t use checks too much nowadays. We use electric transfers, debit cards, or credit cards.

There’s a little interesting part about how your bank transfer money through a central bank to the receiver’s bank.

Final Thoughts on Schoolhouse Rock Money Rock

To write this article, I sat down with my kids to watch it for the second time. I put it on for them around two years ago. My 10-year-old remembered it well, but my 9-year-old did not. I think it’s helpful for this age group because they asked questions, and we could discuss. The discussions were quick, though – they wanted to move on to the next one.

I don’t know if that’s a sign they were looking forward to the next one or if they just wanted to plow through them and get to another activity they enjoy more.

If Schoolhouse Rock moves a little too fast or if you are looking for another television show to learn about money, see teach your kids about money with television.

Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money-Smart Kids

Raising Money Smart Kids

I love whenever anyone’s best tips for raising money-smart kids. However, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been reading Kiplinger’s since I was a kid. My mother subscribed to it, and I was interested. She had explained compound interest to me a long time ago. In ancient times (around 1988), banks paid a real interest rate – about 7-8%, if my memory serves. I had some money saved from my paper route and first job at Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, so it seemed like a good idea to learn more about investing worked.

A lot of personal finance is now online (such as this site), but I’ve been a Kiplinger’s subscriber since college. You can get a couple of years of it for around $40, which is a great deal compared to the cover price of a whopping $6.99. I’m all for recognizing the value of financial advice, but that’s a lot of money for 72 ad-filled pages of often out-of-date information. It shows how challenging the print world is nowadays.

Today, I’d like to cover Kiplinger’s tips for raising money-smart kids, spread out over two issues last year. Specifically, I’m talking about Janet Bodnar, who runs the Money Smart Women column. Fortunately, the column covers some fathers with tips about raising money-smart kids. Personal finance should be something for the whole family. My family is a real-life example of it. It’s just that I have a crazy obsession.

Part 1: Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money Smart Kids

In the first article, Janet Bodnar covers What Kids Need to Know About Finances. She’s written the book Raising Money Smart Kids, but to be fair, there are more than a few books with that title.

The article points out that high-net-worth women have jumped into estate planning due to COVID. These families with a lot of money want their kids to know how to handle it. We fit that profile too. However, I’m far from the stage of worrying about how my nine and 10-year-old boys will manage money years from now. I want to help them to build a foundation now rather than be disappointed later. Personal finance is what I know and what I’m passionate about, so I might pass that knowledge on.

The article continues that spending and saving are the two most important things to teach. I agree, especially for young kids. Older kids have more opportunities to focus on earning more and investing. However, schoolwork comes first, so making more has to be about “working smarter” rather than “working longer/harder.” At least investing can be very quick. An automatic investing plan can be set up in just a few minutes.

The next tip was to have younger kids use cash and let older kids use an ATM account attached to a bank – avoid credit cards. This tip is reasonable. Although, my kids have been authorized users on my Amazon card for a few years. They have yet to learn about it and wouldn’t know where or how to use it, but it will help them earn credit whenever needed.

The final tip was that young kids don’t need to know about family income. That’s obvious. Young children are still learning place value, and numbers like hundreds of thousands don’t make much sense.

Part 2: Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money Smart Kids

As a follow-up to that article, Bodnar shared some reader tips on raising money smart kids.

One reader shared a “parent matching” strategy. That’s where a parent will reward a child for saving with more money, similar to how a 401k match works at many companies. Another reader made it simple, “Live below your means.” Finally, one reader stressed the value of saving over earning because you pay taxes on money earned.

Some readers disagreed with the above tip about not giving kids credit cards. Like me, one reader wanted their children to establish excellent credit at a young age. Another reader required kids to pay it off in full every month. I love that last tip, as it builds a habit and establishes the importance of it before the kids are on their own in college.

Finally, Bodnar recommended two books for helping high school students with investing, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of and How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest!. For younger kids, I have my own opinion on the best book to teach kids about money.

Aside from books, I would add a podcast for teens, NPR’s Planet Money’s Summer School on investing.

I found all these reader tips (along with Bodnar’s book recommendation) better than the original article. Over both articles, there are plenty of good tips – definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Origanlly published 1/24/2022

16 Cheap Sleepover Ideas

My kids are just getting old enough for sleepovers and I’m not 100% sure if I’m ready for it. With these cheap sleepover ideas, at least I don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money. There are so many fun things for tweens and teens to do that are cheap or even free. In the end, slumber parties are all about spending time with friends.

Get Prepared

Before we get to the sleepover ideas, let’s get prepared.

If your child is going to someone else’s house, they’ll need pajamas, pillows/pillowcases, blankets, sleeping bags… and some tips on how to win a pillow fight. My strategy is to block first, then swing while their pillow is down.

The Main Event

1. Movie night

Set up a movie marathon and invite friends over to watch some of their favorite films. Pair it with a popcorn bar. Everyone gets to flavor their own popcorn. This great popcorn popper is around $15. As a bonus, you’ve already got snacks covered.

2. Game night

Have a variety of board games, card games, and video games available for everyone to play. Everyone can bring their favorite and the group can vote. You’ll certainly have more than enough options.

3. Make Friendship Bracelets

Making bracelets is one of my favorite cheap activities. In fact, you can start a business making bracelets.

4. Makover Party

I don’t have teen girls, but I’ve seen enough movies to know that makeovers are popular with them. (Err, everything in movies is true, right?) Don’t tell anyone but even my boys have experimented doing their nails. As a bonus nail polish can be used in a lot of other crafts. Don’t forget lipstick, blush, face masks, eye-liner, or whatever make-up things that girls wear that I know nothing about.

5. Craft night

Have a variety of craft materials available for friends to make their own jewelry, bracelets, or other crafts.

6. Murder mystery night

Everyone loves a good murder mystery! This one takes a little planning. I’m sure there are dozens of articles just a quick Google search away to help you.

7. Time capsule

Kids can putting small mementos in a box, write letters to future selves, and then seal it up with a plan to open it in the future.

8. Baking party

Bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. As a bonus, you can skip the next section: “Snack Time”

9. Snack Time!

Don’t forget to plan a snack time (unless you are doing the popcorn bar from above. You can choose from all the classic sleepover food groups: candy, cookies, chips, and chocolate.

Fun Sleepover Games

10. Scavenger/Treasure hunt

Create a scavenger/treasure hunt around the house. Teams of two teens can solve puzzles and find the next clue until they get to the final destination.

11. Dance Competition

Dancing with friends is always fun, right? If there’s a friend who doesn’t like to dance, they can be the judge!

Dinner Ideas

Every good sleepover involves dinner.

12. DIY pizza

Get together to make homemade pizzas with a variety of toppings.

13. Pot Luck

Each guest can bring a dish that they made before the sleepover party

Sleep Time

14. Indoor camping

Set up tents inside and have a camping-themed sleepover complete with roasting marshmallows. You can create a spooky theme starting with a horror movies for the main event and following up with ghost stories.

Summertime Ideas

If it’s summertime (or you live in a warm area) there are a number of ideas you can explore.

15. Outdoor movie night

(This one may not be so cheap. It’s only cheap if you have the equipment or a friend who does.) Set up a projector and screen in the backyard and have a movie night under the stars. (Projectors are getting cheaper and perhaps a cheap bed sheet can be used.)

16. Pool party

Step one: Buy an expensive pool.
Step two: Have a cheap pool party.

I’m joking with this one. It’s obviously cheating to use an expensive pool. However, if you already have one, might as well take advantage of it.

What we Learned at Kid Wealth in 2022

Happy New Year, 2023! Before we completely say goodbye to 2022, let’s look back at what I learned in 2022. It was the first year of Kid Wealth, and it was mostly a soft launch as I tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully, you learned a few things as well.

Moderation in Financial Literacy is Important

If you’ve heard a kid say, “I hate math”, you probably know the worst thing you can do is force more math on them. Financial literacy can work the same way. If a kid is interested in money, you’ve got the green light to go crazy and throw all the resources on this site at them.

My kids know that I write about personal finance. I can get a little “preachy” in my excitement to share what I know. I’ve learned to back off and instead use tools to teach kids about money. A board game or even a television show makes learning about money fun. If you meet resistance, adding one of these “fun financial literacy” activities once a week is a good way to go.

Allowances

When I started the year, I didn’t know much about how to give an allowance. It sounds like it should be simple, but there’s a lot of complexity about whether to tie it to chores and how to guide kids to budget their money. I found that it’s crucial to let kids make money mistakes.

I found that dealing with cash can be challenging regarding allowance. I didn’t often have four one-dollar bills hanging around. It’s much easier to use FamZoo to load a debit card for the kids. They get their allowance every week, even if I forget. I can also set things up to give them a great interest rate to encourage them to save.

Kid Money Books

I wrote quite a few reviews of children’s books. There are books for teaching your kids investing, teach your kids about financial independence and retiring early.

There are great general-purpose kid financial literacy books like Grandpa’s Fortune Fables. I can’t get my kids to read that book, but I found one the kids did want to read…

The Golden Quest caught their attention because it’s a graphic novel. They wanted to read it and got through it in about an hour. It covers many major financial topics at a high level. The bonus with this book is that it helps when I need to clean their room. What’s your awesome stuff, kids? Which stuff isn’t so awesome?

Parents may want to read The First National Bank of Dad. I’ll be working on more books for adults to read in 2023.

Everything Else

This website is very focused on kids and money. However, it is important to develop skills beyond financial literacy. You may want to read about teaching kids grit. Grit will come in handy if you want kids to become entrepreneurs.

Parents, you might want to look into a kid Roth IRA. The compound interest could be worth millions. Imagine how much more money you’d have today if you saved enough for retirement by age 20 or 25.

Kid Wealth Website Stuff

I learned that people don’t like courses as a giveaway, even if they usually sell for over $150. I tried to get people to sign up for my mailing list, and very few people did. I wonder if other parents are too overloaded with other stuff to make their kids a millionaire. If they are as busy as we are with our kids, then it makes complete sense.

I want to do much more with the main age categories you see on the front page. Stay tuned for that.

Overall, I just scratched the surface of what I want to do with this website. I have many ideas that extend beyond the concept of a simple blog.