We got back from a Disney cruise a couple of weeks ago. My kids thought it was the best time of their lives. They couldn’t wait to do it again next year.
The only problem is… Disney cruises are very, very expensive. Going every year isn’t in the budget. I explained to them that it costs us nearly $1,000 each day when you count the cost of flying, excursions, ground transportation, and other incidentals. They were able to understand that it is a big number. However, they don’t have a reference to compare it to.
That’s when I realized I had to give them a comparison they’d understand. I explained that Great Wolf Lodge, a long weekend they loved before the pandemic, was closer to $250 a day. I said that we could spend nearly two months at Great Wolf Lodge for what we spent on the Disney Cruise. My oldest responded that he’d prefer that longer vacation at Great Wolf. My youngest disagreed – he liked visiting Norway and the other countries.
I often like to ask them about alternative ways to spend money. In this case, I said we decided on the Disney cruise because mom and I haven’t traveled to Europe for more than a decade. We get more value from visiting Westminster Abbey than the cute upselling wolf. We also can’t take two months off from work. I also explained that we chose Disney because we knew it would be a good vacation for them too. Everyone gets a little of what they want.
I’ve been looking into next year, and it seems that Royal Caribbean has a cruise that costs only about one-third of the Disney one. We found some videos online, and they looked like they had fun stuff for kids to do too. They said that they’d be interested in that cruise too. We’d be able to go on that cruise, a road trip to Hershey, PA, and have some money left over for a weekend or two at Great Wolf Lodge.
As we ended the conversation, I explained that one of my jobs is to write about making money choices. Spending money wisely is as important as earning it.
It’s hard for young kids to know about all these options. They don’t have the life experience and access to the tools to evaluate costs. These “buy this… or that?” conversations are critical for helping them grow their money skills.
In other news, we are back from our vacation. One great thing about having wealth is that we can take our kids on a European Disney Cruise. I bet there aren’t too many American kids who get to see Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Scotland, and England. Disney cruises aren’t cheap; we’ll probably do Royal Caribbean next time. I’m extremely grateful that my parents helped me learn about money from a young age. There wasn’t much downtime, but I did manage to read Rich Kids by Tom Corley.
I learned about the book while reading CNBC’s website one day. The author had studied the habits of a few hundred millionaires and distilled them into a book called “Rich Habits.” I looked into that book briefly, but when I saw he had a book, “Rich Kids,” I focused my attention there instead.
The Structure of “Rich Kids”
Rich Kids has an unusual structure. The author is taking his 12-year-old son on a long road trip. His son confesses that he looked in his dad’s secret journal that he carries everywhere and is curious about it. That begins the author’s story about his summer when he was 12 years old. That summer was the best summer any kid had in the history of the world. I’m barely exaggerating.
When Tom was twelve, his parents sent him to spend the summer with his grandfather, J.C. Jobs, who seems to be a fictional character. You can think of him as a Tony Robbins figure – an inspirational speaker with more money than he can ever spend.
The book is 180 pages, but it reads very quickly because there are about 40 chapters, each making at least a blank page. The story goes back and forth between various life lessons and tall tales of J.C. and Tom’s adventures – dinner with the President of the United States with J.C.’s picture in the Oval Office. Emeril Lagasse made Tom and all his friends dinner after they traveled to New Orleans from New Jersey. There are helicopter rides, hot air balloon rides, etc. J.C.’s so rich and doesn’t work all summer – except for that one speech for the President at the White House.
If you remove the filler entertainment parts, there are probably about 70 pages of helpful content. Because the chapters were short, it felt like a series of great list-based blog articles. One example is a four-page chapter on health covering diet and exercise. It’s a good enough summary of the main points and helps emphasize that diet and exercise are essential to living a life of wealth*. There are also a lot of chapters on positive thinking and attitude. There’s a chapter on rich emotions like love and gratitude. There’s a chapter about avoiding poor habits like watching television and playing video games for more than one hour.
One chapter that I particularly liked has you write detailed letters to yourself about what your life looks like in one year, five years, ten years, and an obituary. The obituary might be too far for a kid, but long-term planning is important. I found that keeping and maintaining a “things I like” list can help as well.
Nitpicks of “Rich Kids”
I found only two things a little annoying in Rich Kids.
One brief mention of multi-level marketing (MLM) as a way to make some extra money. Over 99% of people in MLM lose money. Rich Kids was written in 2014, a little before the gig economy started to take off. A kid could make more money mowing one lawn than the vast majority of people will ever make in MLM.
There wasn’t much mention of financial literacy or personal finance. With an author who is a CPA and CFP, you would expect some basic information about investing or compound interest. Many more pages are spent on the fictional J.C. Jobs’s luxurious spending than explaining how he built and managed his wealth.
Final Thoughts about “Rich Kids”
Every book for helping kids with money has been evident in who its intended audience is… except for Rich Kids. The subtitle is “How to Raise Our Children to be Happy and Successful in Life,” so one would think it is aimed at parents. However, the material about J.C. taking Tom on trips seems aimed more toward keeping kids interested. Some parts of the book have detailed lists that may be better suited for posters or another medium that can be reinforced repeatedly over time.
Rich Kids is a very good book for supplementing the financial literacy books we typically cover at Kid Wealth. When we focus so much on money, we can lose sight of the character traits that are important in anyone’s definition of a successful life.
“What should my kids about money?” That’s one of the first questions I get when I tell them that I run this Kid Wealth website. It’s a fair question, but I had never set down and tried to make a comprehensive list… until now. Here’s the obligatory “Top Ten” list of what your kids should know about money.
Create a Budget Tracking where you spend money is crucial at a young age. Budgeting is more challenging to teach than I initially thought it would be. Kids generally don’t have to be responsible for many needs (clothing, food, transportation) that adults do. It’s easier to “budget” when allocating your allowance to wants like Pokemon cards.
Being Frugal for Frugal Sake Developing a frugal mindset at a young age will pay off for a lifetime. Kids that learn this are less to spend more than they can afford on their house and car. Those two purchases alone can be significant setbacks to the goal of financial freedom.
Make More Money It can be either through entrepreneurism or focusing on a career that has a high average salary.
Compound Interest I’ve covered this a lot recently. It’s important to teach kids compound interest. Making your money work for you is when personal finance becomes fun.
Get Your Head in the Money Game Grit, motivation, having a positive attitude – it’s all important.
Avoid Bad Debt Usually, I like to teach compound interest as a positive – how to make it work for you. However, bad debt like credit card and payday loan interest work powerfully against you.
There’s a gray area of debt, like mortgages and student loans. Generally, they are good debt, but sometimes they can spiral out of control.
College Planning It’s easy to get caught up in the big business of college. That can leave you with a lot of debt and a degree that doesn’t make enough to pay it off quickly. To learn about the inner workings of the college business check out The Price You Pay for College. The subtitle is appropriate: “An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make.”
Insurance It’s easy to forget about insurance until a disaster happens. We teach kids about preventing dangerous situations, from avoiding strangers to using crosswalks. Most kids don’t need insurance, but they hear parents talk about it. Protecting their hard-earned money may be the most important thing on this list.
Tracking your Net Worth There’s an old saying, “What gets measured gets improved.” I started tracking my net worth in 2006, and it was motivating to see that good money decisions like saving and investing were paying off. Tracking your net worth can take a little time to set up, but once you have a system, it’s quick. I have a dozen accounts, and I can update my monthly net worth spreadsheet in half an hour.
Spend Less Than You Make I saved the most important one for last. It’s a combination of the first three items on the list. If there’s one golden rule of personal finance, it’s this. This topic easily flows into discussing savings rates and investing/compound interest.
Here are a couple of bonus topics that I felt fit just outside the top ten.
Automate the Process This is a top candidate to move into the top 10 in a future update. Everyone is busy and managing various aspects of their lives. Few people want to add more to their to-do list. A surprising amount of money management can be automated. I never think about writing a check to a credit card company or paying a cable bill. The kids’ college 529 plan gets new money invested every month. Our mortgage and rental properties get paid automatically, and we build equity without action. Saving money in a retirement account is a “set it and forget it” event.
I wish I could automate the dishes, laundry, and cooking as much as I can money management.
Adulting While on the topic of dishes, laundry, and cooking, there are a lot of general “adulting tasks” that kids should be aware of. They can help with all those, but we can add anything that requires running a home, such as fixing stuff, getting health care (not as easy as it seems in cases), and anything in between.
Kids don’t need to know much about this; they’ll pick it with their life experience.
How Taxes Work Kids should know that adults pay taxes and what they are used for. Older kids should know how tax brackets work. Too many adults wrongly believe that it’s financially disastrous to land in a high tax bracket. Growing up, I had a friend whose father had a saying, “I don’t mind paying a lot of taxes – it means I made a lot of money.”
Investing 101 You can get kids started with investing by explaining how one fund, a total market index fund is all you need. In most cases, it will have low expenses and beat all the professional stock pickers.
This list is useful for more than kids. That may make sense since kids become adults and have to work with adult money situations. Preparing kids for those situations earlier is usually fine as long as the explanations aren’t too complicated.
A recent article in the NY Times details research on how children can rise out of poverty by making friends with rich people (not paywall – available with a free NYT account).
In particular, they cite three things:
Education is always important. That includes all the way back in pre-K and continued through college. While the article didn’t call it out specifically, I thought it was worth noting that education counts, even at the Pre-K level.
It seems like money is a great way to get out of poverty. Wait, that’s a sentence that is so common sense that it doesn’t make any sense. The article says, “Longer, deeper bouts of poverty can affect children for decades.” Now that makes sense. It also pointed out that avoiding adverse life events like eviction and having good health care is important. As you might imagine, two parents raising a child is much better than one. I don’t truly know what it’s like to be a single parent, but sometimes my wife is deployed for 4-6 weeks, and I get a glimpse of what it is like. It is not good.
3. Friendships and Social Capital
A study in published in Nature (a very respected journal) found that friendships with wealthy people tends to lift lower-income people up the income ladder. This makes sense because I’ve read for years that you are likely to have an income around the average of your five closest friends (generally credited to Jim Rohn).
Here’s how friendships are generally grouped:
The NY Times article suggests three ways that friendships can help boost someone out of poverty. The first is motivation or ambition. You see a friend with money and think, “Hey, I can do that.” The second way is simply basic information, such as sharing money tips (buying a house, applying for college). Lastly, there’s general networking which can lead to increased job opportunities. When I was a kid, I was able to get a high-paying job* as a pharmacy technician at a local hospital because my mother was a nurse there. When we needed more people, I asked a friend, who came on board.
The article ends with a path forward. If we can increase the amount of cross-class interactions, we can lift more people out of poverty. That’s certainly a big part of the puzzle.
If you low-income and are here and reading this, you are also more likely to move up a class. You’ve shown an interest in education and specifically the kinds of basic information that you might get from rich friends. You know how compound interest works and how kids can make money.
* The pharmacy technician job paid $8.41/hr, which was tremendous for a 16-year-old in 1993.
(Today, I’m taking another detour from kid money to “kid life.” However, like my other detours, these topics can also come back to money. For example, we’ll cover a book on grit today, which is a quality that will help a kid make money. Of course, grit is essential outside of the world of money. There’s one more thing before we get started. Papersalt did not sponsor this article, but it may seem like they did. I may make some money, at no cost to you, if you buy these books.)
I opened it up and thumbed through a few pages. I was amazed by the quotes. Here are a couple of examples:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”
“Don’t be fearful of what could go wrong. Get excited for what may go right.”
Each page was one excellent quote after another. The pages are thick (130# stock) and seemingly waterproof. I don’t want to test it, but they have a plastic feel. With the spiral binding, it is clear that they’ll last a long, long time. That binding also lets me open it to display a different daily page.
There’s nothing magical about quotes about courage, grit, and perseverance. I’m sure you can find dozens with a quick Google search. There might even be many of the exact curated quotes in the book. However, the presentation and being able to put it in my sons’ hands is essential. I was going to try to get it from the library, but I didn’t see it available in any library in Rhode Island.
I bought these books because I have boys, but there are versions for girls too. For example there are Being a Girl and Grit for Girls. I didn’t buy either of these two books (again, not having girls), but from the pictures on Amazon, it looks like they have the same content as the books for boys. Maybe some of the pages are different, but the example pages they show are the same, but with different art.
There are also books aimed at teens, but I haven’t looked at these. I know I will in a few years as my kids get older. If you have older kids and buy one of these books, leave me a comment. I’d like to know how they are.
In my searches for other Papersalt books, I found one more that intrigued me – Becoming Fearless. However, the Papersalt website didn’t have it. I wrote Papersalt, and they said it was out of print and wouldn’t know when/if it would be available again. It was still available at New York Puzzle Company, so I ordered that one. It’s just as good as all the others. There seems to be some overlap in concepts with the Grit book, but that’s to be expected. They are both about overcoming obstacles.
Raise your hands if you are having a great Shark Week so far? I know I am.
Kids love sharks. Especially baby sharks (do do do do-do-do). I hope kids are learning lots about sharks. Did you know that sharks can teach you about money?
I found a shark who will teach your kid (or you, if you are a kid) how interest works. I’ve got an easy job of putting just a few words of an introduction together. The great people from Nex Gen Personal Finance are doing all the work. I love it when I can work smarter, not harder. Thanks, Nex Gen Personal Finance!
A couple of weeks ago, I was searching for something unrelated on the internet and stumbled upon this gem from the Nex Gen Interactive Library. You get to play the “bad guy” as you try to maximize profits from all the delicious victims that enter your office looking to borrow money.
I made it so that you either click on the title or the image to play the game. It isn’t as easy as you think. I got a few wrong. I think it might be best for kids in the 4th grade or higher, perhaps ideally in the 5th or 6th grade.
I’m keeping it short today. It gives you more time for learning.
One of the kids’ favorite shows was Apple and Onion on Cartoon Network. Unfortunately, it got canceled earlier this year. Fortunately, if you have HBO Max you can stream all the episodes. It’s one of the few shows that parents will enjoy almost as much as the kids.
My oldest recently saw a set of Pokemon cards at Walmart that he just had to have. He knows the difference between needs vs. wants, but it was a strong enough want that it felt like a need. Alas, he hasn’t saved up enough allowance.
He had a solution. He would invoke the Apple and Onion episode of Tips where the characters try to perform extra tasks for a hot air balloon ride. They have one day to do it.
There are pluses and minuses to parenting a kid with a photographic memory. This is one such time.
At first, it doesn’t work well. They are a disaster at earning tips:
Eventually, they learn how to be helpful:
Earning Tips in Real Life
My son knows that I write this blog. So he said, “Hey, by reminding you about that Apple and Onion episode, I kind of helped you with your blog, right?” I responded, “Yes, that episode is an entertaining way for kids to learn how to make some extra money.” He then said, “Can I have tips?”
Yep, I gave him a tip.
I then went to look when the next new episodes are coming out and I saw that it was canceled. On Twitter, I found one of the storyboard artists put together a guide of what it was like to work on the show – complete with Apple and Onion characters.
Continuing my series of comics showing an honest look at what it's like to work in animation, here's a new one about my 2 year run on #AppleandOnion called Apple, Onion & Me! 🍎🧅🍎🧅🍎🧅🍎🧅🍎🧅 (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/EWXfAlpHgQ
My 8-year-old loves art and cartooning, so this was a win. I saw that he was selling a physical for $5, but he was also giving a digital copy away for free, but via Gumroad where you can… give a tip. So I put in my credit card number and sent a few dollars his way. Both my kids loved it.
It seems that I’m a lot like Apple and Onion before they learned how to earn tips. I’m a lot better at giving tips than receiving them.
Customize Your Money Lessons – All kids are different. I have two very boys who are only 15 months apart. They learn in very different ways. This has made me realize that there is little one-size-fits-all advice for teaching kids about money. When I write an article at Kid Wealth, I hope that you process it and keep the parts that are useful to you and your family. You know your family better than anyone else. If it’s anything like mine, there is a lot of trial, error, revise, and try again cycles. That’s how learning works.
Actions Speak Louder than Words – Your kids are watching and learning from you. When you set a good example, you get a tremendous head start in getting kids to think positively about money.
Those Actions Can Cut both ways – If you have bad spending habits and it leads to money (and other) problems, kids can see the bad situation and may be motivated to avoid it. I know several adults who specifically told me, “My parents struggled with money. I didn’t want to be like that.”
Alternatively, my kids see me being frugal and are quick to say, “Dad, you are being cheap.” They may be right. I tell them that Aruba timeshares and Disney cruises cost a lot of money, so we have to save money sometimes to be able to afford those tremendous life experiences.
Teach Compound Interest – Kids have two awesome advantages over adults. Their brains are awesome sponges that are perfect for learning new things. They have more time for compound interest to make a huge impact in their lives. For example, a Teach Kids Investing At Any Age – The concept of compound interest goes hand-in-hand with investing. It might sound strange to teach a preschooler about investing, but it’s very possible.
A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money – This is a great book geared towards teen girls. However, I paid my 9-year-old son a couple of dollars to read it and give me his thoughts and he said it was fine for boys too.
Grandpa’s Fortunate Fables – This is my favorite book for kids in elementary school and tweens. It covers about a dozen money lessons, making it a perfect foundational book. Add it to your summer reading list and have the kids read a chapter a night.
You can also look for ways to teach kids money by age:
I realize that this article points you in a lot of different directions. I hope it’s not overwhelming. The most important thing is to pick one thing and get started. I’ll check back in another six months an update this with a lot more resources. I hope you can keep up 😉.
The title of this article is inspired by this Oprah Book. I haven’t read it, but the title stands out to me.
“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest” – Warren Buffett
When one of the richest people on the Earth gives actionable advice that anyone can take it’s worth listening to. He’s used the magic of compound interest better than anyone.
Here are four fun ways to teach compound interest to kids:
Read A Book About Compound Interest
My third grader did a play at school called One Grain of Rice. We had read the book earlier this year.
One Grain of Rice is a lesson on how a grain of rice doubled every day for a month becomes a huge number – enough to bankrupt a kingdom. Substitute a penny for the grain of rice and there will be enough money to fill a mountain!
Read my One Grain of Rice article here. It has an interactive spreadsheet, which illustrates it better than a compound interest calculator in my opinion.
Give Kids Firsthand Experience
You can read books about fixing cars or programming computers. Reading is not the same as doing.
In The First National Bank of Dad (Review), I learned a technique where kids are given monthly interest payments on their deposits. Shorter compounding periods help kids notice the money growing faster. This creates an incentive to save more.
For example, a 3% monthly interest rate is an annual 42% interest rate. It’s something that many parents can do because kids don’t have $100,000 of principal to break the bank.
You may think that putting kids’ money in a traditional savings account is a great choice. However, the interest earnings are so low it will take them the rest of their lives to earn much. It’s no way to show how the rewards of compound interest are often described as the eighth wonder of the world.
Watch a Video About How Compound Interest Works
This video explains how the above works with a 10% monthly interest rate. It also illustrates how compound interest works over a lifetime:
While the video says it is geared to grades 5-8, I think it works for grade 3 and maybe even some second graders. The multiplication at the beginning is the most difficult part, but it’s very quick and kids don’t have to follow the math exactly to get it.
Take A Course MoneyTime is a course to teach kids about money in general. It covers much more than compound interest. MoneyTime has some gaming features like allowing kids to create their own avatar.
Teaching compound interest to kids is especially useful because they have more time to grow their money. The video above showed how much of a difference there is between an 18 and a 25-year-old saving over time. Imagine if you can start even seven years before the video’s example.
I hope everyone had a good Independence Day weekend. Independence Day is a great time to get kids started on financial independence. It might sound silly to start so young, but a lot of it boils down to some core life skills and letting compound interest do the rest. That article has tips such as learning to cook, which is something many parents do with their kids. You may also want to read If You Made a Million.
This past week, I like the following Tweets:
I don’t come across Walter the Vault’s Tweets often, but whenever I do they make me smile. It’s one thing to give sound financial advice, but it’s another to do it in rhyme. Here’s a great example:
With so many tips to read in that last Tweet, I’ll cut this post short so you can get right to it.
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I am not a financial adviser. Kid Wealth content is for educational purposes only and the information should not be construed as professional financial advice.