Book Review

Grandpa’s Fortune Fables (Book Review)

Grandpa's Fortune Fables

On my Kid Wealth Twitter account (@KidWealth), I noticed a lot of my followers saying how good Grandpa’s Fortune Fables by Will Rainey is. I started following him and his Blue Tree Savings website. He had some great blog posts about a millionaire janitor and how McDonalds really makes their money.

Naturally, I fast-tracked Grandpa’s Fables to the top of my “to read / to review” list. To be honest, it helped that the Kindle price is currently $3. This was an easy buy because I get to help a fellow kid financial literacy advocate… and because I could be frugal at the same time.

Grandpa Fortune Fables’ Audience

Grandpa’s Fortune Fables was written for kids ages 7-13. This is a much better fit for my kids (age 8 and 9) than M is for Money. That book was aimed at younger kids. I was able to read it myself over two days. I’m a slow reader and it took me around a couple of hours. It’s 21,339 words (that information is a tiny bit of a spoiler that you get at the end of the book).

My 8-year-old is at a guided reading level of “N” and he did two chapters earlier today. I was hoping to have my kids read it and contribute to this review, but they could sense that it was “learning” and resisted. When I convinced my 8-year-old to read one chapter, he read a second one on his own because he wanted to solve the money code. Each chapter has a question at the end about the main idea. The correct answer corresponds to a letter. Get all the letters and you solve the money code, which can be used for a discount to a money club.

Maybe it’s my kids, but I’ve found that a book needs to have a gimmick to hook my kids. They’re busy with school, karate, soccer, baseball, scouts, music lessons, Duolingo, etc. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to do extra reading.

Grandpa Fortune Fables’ Format

I had expected the book to have different, unrelated money fables. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the fables are connected by a running story of a couple of main characters. Most of the chapters end with a bit of a cliffhanger, which made it difficult to put down. I wasn’t expecting to read it in two days, but I just kept on flipping through to the next chapter to see what the next money lesson would be.

The characters themselves are a little reminiscent of Rich Dad, Poor Dad with one character who is good with money teaching the kid who comes from a family with poor money management. Rainey does list Rich Dad, Poor Dad as one of the inspirations for his book. It’s a little outside the scope of this review, but I’ve included more information at the end of this article about why I cringed when I saw this. Fortunately, readers of Grandpa Fortune Fables can be blissfully unaware of this reality and still get great financial information.

Grandpa Fortune Fables’ Money Lessons

There are 14 money lessons covered in the book. They are:

  1. Everyone Can Become Wealthy
  2. Getting Rich Quick
  3. Rich Vs. Wealthy
  4. Working Smart
  5. Kid Entrepreneur
  6. Save Then Spend
  7. Invest
  8. Debt and Gambling
  9. Tax
  10. Risk
  11. Strategy (Leave Investments Alone)
  12. Home is not an Asset
  13. Charity
  14. Starting a Business

Almost all of the chapters are done extremely well – so well, I couldn’t imagine any way to improve on them. However, the chapter on debt used a metaphor of growing red trees to illustrate debt seemed out of place. I understood what the metaphor meant knowing that compound interest in the form of debt can work against you. It just wasn’t clear in the book why the character loaning the money would plant a tree to represent how much debt the borrower would need to pay back. Even then, I can’t think of a better analogy to model it.

The chapter on your home not being an asset is a valuable lesson, but I’m not sure how relatable it is for the average 10-year-old who doesn’t own a home. This is one money lesson that will probably need reinforcement every few years until the young adult gets to house-buying age. This chapter will be a great discussion with our kids when they ask about why all their friends live in mansions and we live in a more modest house.

Final Thoughts on Grandpa Fortune Fables

I may have been overly critical on a couple of minor points of this book. I think that’s because it is overall so well done that those minor things stood out to me. I have previously said that If You Made a Million is the best personal finance book for kids, but Grandpa Fortune Fables surpasses it. In hindsight, If You Made a Million, tries to cover too much taking you from a description of what a penny is to financial independence by earning interest on a big nest egg.

The stories in Grandpa’s Fortune Fables are more engaging than the If You Made Million. I would love to have seen this book come home from school because my kids would have had less resistance to reading it. It should be the core book of any financial education for kids ages 7 to 13.

The problem with the Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Rich Dad, Poor Dad is widely considered the worst personal finance book. It comes up on most search results for “Worst Personal Finance book.” The author Kiyosaki himself seems to be modeled in Grandpa’s Fortune Fables as Shovel Sam – the scammer who tells everyone that there is gold on the island so he can get rich selling shovels. Kiyosaki is active in the MLM/pyramid scheme community. He’s also sold a $45,000 course on real estate and suggested that people fund it with credit cards.

You can learn more about these courses in this CBC Marketplace news expose:



Nonetheless, Robert Kiyosaki filed for bankruptcy. There’s so much negative with Kiyosaki it’s hard to know where the bad money lessons end.

M is for Money (Book Review)

Before I get started with my M is for Money book review, I need to make a disclosure. I helped fund this book through Kickstarter. My level of funding was enough to get a credit in the Champions of Finance at the back of the book. I knew that I wanted Kid Wealth to do more than create our content… I wanted to make a bigger difference and support child financial literacy from other creators. The Kickstarter funding also donated several copies of the book to schools.

I want to get my only criticism of the book out there early. It’s listed as being for ages 3-8. When the book was released my kids were 7 and 8 – on the older side of the intended audience. That 8-year-old is now 9 and a half and reading chapter books. For example, he learned a lot from A Smart Girl’s Guide To Money. (One of these days, I’ll offer him a book that’s actually in his demographic.) I would recommend it for kids at a younger age, maybe 3-6.

As a Kickstarter funder, we got a very early edition that had a small typo. I was excited because it was like a limited edition baseball card with an error. The typo is fixed in more recent printings. The typo came in handy though. I offered my kids a quarter if they could find it. Suddenly they were very interested to read the “baby book about money.” What was interesting is that my kids remembered which letters were for which words. They couldn’t find the error without me telling the page, but when I said the letter, they knew which word it was for.

M is for Money

Reading Level

As mentioned earlier, this book is good for Pre-Kindergarten to first grade. In the notes at the end of the book the author, Rob Phelan said he specifically chose words for those reading levels. I’m not a teacher, so I’m not qualified to say it is a certain reading level, but I would estimate it to be guided reading level D.

Characters

The book is full of diverse characters. It’s not just interracial couples, but also families with two mommies and daddies, different cultures like Hawaii, and handicaps. As Phalen wrote on the Amazon page:

“I want as much opportunity as possible for a child to find a character in the book with whom they can relate, and who is demonstrating using money in a positive way.”

It was great to see one of the kids wear glasses like my oldest. There were no blond hair or blue-eyed people in the book as far as I could tell. There is a woman who has light brown hair that could be arguably blonde. There are so many types of people, it’s nearly impossible to do them all, right?

Artwork

The artwork is beautifully done. I’m not an art expert, but all the characters look happy. The colors are bright and pop off the page. On the topic of pages, they are thick – it feels like the book would last through quite a few readings even with rough kids.

Financial Literacy Value

For its intended audience, the book knocks it out of the park. It’s hard to bring financial literacy to the kindergarten crowd. I loved how Stash the Squirrel is on every page with a question to create a discussion between kids and adults.

Final Thoughts

M is for Money is a great money book for early readers. It functions well as a beginner A-B-C book, but it goes beyond that fostering deeper discussions.

My biggest complaint is that it didn’t exist when my kids were younger. Instead I turned to If I Made a Million, but that book is best for kids who are 7 to 10 years old.

Kids’ Money Books

April is financial literacy month. We’re kind of biased at Kid Wealth, but we feel it’s a great time for kids to read money books.

Don’t want to take our biased opinion? What about Warren Buffett’s opinion instead?

Warren Buffett said:

“Sometimes parents wait until their kids are in their teens before they start talking about managing money — when they could be starting when their kids are in preschool.”

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of kid money books. As you’ll see, it is far from complete. I need to review a lot more of these books. I’ll be adding information about the appropriate age of the book, the money lessons covered. Then you’ll be able to zero in on a few books that are perfect for your kids’ age and the lesson you want to focus on.

For now, I simply recommend How Much is a Million for kids up to age 8-9 and A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money for girl tweens and up. Stay tuned for another list of money books written for parents to read.

TitleReview
If You Made A MillionKid Wealth Review
A Smart Girl's Guide: Money (Revised): How to Make It, Save It, and Spend ItKid Wealth Review
Grandpa's Fortune Fables: Fun stories to teach kids about moneyKid Wealth Review
M is for MoneyKid Wealth Review
A Boy, a Budget, and a Dream
A Chair for My Mother
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday
Curious George Saves His Pennies
Give It! (A Moneybunny Book)
Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids
Harmoney & the Empty Piggy Bank: A Book about Money, Budgeting, Entrepreneurship, and Persistence
If Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, Where Does it Grow?
Make Your Own Money: How Kids Can Earn It, Save It, Spend It, and Dream Big, with Danny Dollar, the King of Cha-Ching
Malik's First Job: Financial Tips for Teens and Young Adults
Milton the Money Savvy Pup: Brings Home the Bacon
Molly Earns Her Pie
Money Plan
Moneytopia: Earning: Financial Literacy for Children
No, No, Sonny, Save That Money! A Fun Rhyming Book about Money, Saving, & Investing
One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money
Pennies for Piggy
Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock
The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money
The Four Money Bears
Three Cups
Ultimate Kids' Money Book

American Girl: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money (Book Review)

American Girl: A Smart Girl's Guide to Money

American Girl is a strange brand to put out a guide to money. Some of their dolls cost hundreds of dollars. That’s before you get into the extra clothes and accessories. My wife sold five of her niece’s American Girl dolls for around $500. They were used, without the boxes, and in some cases not even in the original clothes. Back when the nieces were in their American Girl phase my wife saw the prices on the accessories in a catalog and quipped, “I hope you get an American job that pays American money for this stuff.”

I have to admit that when we found out that we having were boys, a part of me was relieved to not have to get drawn into that consumerism. Instead of American Girl stuff, my kids got drawn into Pokemon consumerism. I don’t know if that’s any better.

When my wife saw the book, American Girl: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money by Nancy Holyoke, we joked that it must be one page long with only four words, “Don’t buy our products!” However, it was used and only a couple of dollars. Curiosity got the best of me, so I bought it. The copy I have is the original version from 2006 and that link is to the revised version that’s in print today. It has a different illustrator, but the same author. Using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, it seems like the content itself is the same and the illustrations are just as good – it’s just a different style.

So, with two boys and no daughters, I’m going to attempt to review a personal finance book for teenage girls by a company that sells outlandishly priced products. None of this makes any sense, but this is where we are.

To start, the book isn’t one page and four words long. It’s 95 pages, with colorful illustrations on every page. It’s the perfect presentation for a teenage audience. I can’t emphasize that enough, because getting kids to choose to read about personal finance is not easy. A teenager will plow through this book quickly. I’m tempted to ask my 9-year-old son to read it, but I know it would have be a big bribe – teenage girl books are weird for 9-year-old boys. I’ll give it a try anyway – chocolate usually works. Also, it would give me a chance to put a few dollars in his how to teach kids about money. Finally, there is a page about the power of compound interest.

The book closes out with a few pages on donating to charity. It also included one page about how $20 can mean different things to different people and even different things to you based on how you acquired it and what the expectations were. This particularly resonated with me. I can spend hours writing an article for this site. A dollar earned here means much more than a dollar earned in salary.

American Girl: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money isn’t a complete guide. For its intended audience, it is close to perfect. It teaches just enough without getting too long and complicated that teenage girls would simply not read it.

The First National Bank of Dad (Book Review)

First National Bank of Dad

The First National Bank of Dad is perhaps the best personal finance book for parents. If it’s not the best, it’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most. It’s also certainly one of the best-kept secret books about how to teach kids about money. For some reason, it only has 35 Amazon reviews – not a lot for a book that is nearly 20 years old.

What makes it so good? I keep coming back to two things:

  1. All the advice makes sense when you think of it from the perspective of the child.
  2. It’s an easy, quick, entertaining read.

You’ll get the most out of it if your kids are around age 5 or 6. It’s perfect for that time when kids are starting to get an allowance. It covers personal finance for kids until about the early teen years – around age 13 and 14. There’s some mid-late teen advice such as who should pay for driver’s insurance and whether a teen should get a summer job, but that’s not the main focus. Author David Owen isn’t afraid to share his strong, often contrarian, opinions, but he brilliantly backs them up.

The First National Bank of Dad is divided into four main parts:

How to Get Your Kid Interested in Saving Money

This section is the biggest concept – it’s right in the title of the book. The idea is to open up a virtual account (a spreadsheet will work fine) where your kid(s) can deposit money and receive 3% interest monthly. You, the parent, is going to pay this interest. That’s why you are the First National Bank of Dad.

Why open up your bank for your kids?

Bank savings accounts fail kids. They pay almost no interest. Kids can’t easily access their money. Kids have nothing to gain by putting their money in a bank. It isn’t interesting or useful from their point of view.

However, The Bank of Dad, paying out 3% interest each month makes a big difference. For example, $100 grows to $142.57 in a year. A child can see how $42+ in free money is useful. Personally, I’m thinking of implementing this at 1% compounded weekly. On a $100 deposit, that amounts to $167.77 in a year, but I get to show it growing every week, which might be more interesting to my boys. After the first year, I will reduce it to 3% monthly (42% annually). For the third year, maybe I would do 5% every two months (34% annually) and finally, the last year I could do 7% every quarter (31% annually).

David Owen acknowledges that the Bank of Dad can’t exist forever – paying a guaranteed 42% annual interest over the long term just doesn’t work. He says that around age 12, the kids wanted real checking accounts and independence, which effectively shut down the Bank of Dad. Since this book is twenty years old, I’m not sure kids are interested in real checking accounts like he claims. However, I could see them wanting access to money without asking for a withdrawal from their parents.

The Bank of Dad on Allowances

Author David Owen is a big believer in allowances. I am too. It’s hard for kids to learn about money when they don’t have any. He recommends not being to stingy with allowances – kids have to have enough money that they can make mistakes to learn from.

He gives some other great tips on how to do allowances right:

  • Ask kids how much they want – include them in the process.
  • If they want an allowance raise, have them “apply” for it in writing justifying why they need or deserve more.

He also offers some things that you shouldn’t do with an allowance:

  • He recommends that you don’t encourage the kids to save, let the awesome compound interest get them excited so it’s their idea
  • Chores are a family obligation. We all need to pitch in. It’s best not to link money to doing chores. Pay for doing extra work.
  • Grades are an obligation. It’s the kids’ job. Don’t link money to getting good grades.

There’s one more that I wanted to address specifically.

Don’t force kids to give.

This is a unique concept as almost all the advice on teaching kids about money has giving included. The reasoning behind this is that it doesn’t give kids the ability to control their money. They can control where to give, but not the act of giving itself. If you force kids to give away one-third of their money (as many recommend), kids will see it only getting two-thirds of their allowance.

This makes sense to me. However, I still want them to give. So what do I do about it? I think the best plan is to give an even higher interest rate for money designated for giving. That might not encourage saving for the purpose of giving – after all, the money would all be going away. However, recently my kids have started to want to give each other presents at Christmas and birthdays. If we count this as giving, then they can scheme up a system to multiply their money faster if they cooperate. Most of the time, my kids don’t work well together, but if they have a shared interest, it might bring them closer together.

The Dad Stock Exchange

When the kids have graduated from the Bank of Dad, they are introduced to The Dad Stock Exchange. The Dad Stock Exchange is just like any regular stock exchange, except that the prices of stock are reduced by 100. If a stock trades at $12.45 it would trade at $0.1245 on the Dad Stock Exchange. Kids wouldn’t buy real stock, but Dad would keep track of the value.

Dealing with smaller numbers is easier. Also, kids can diversify more than they normally would be able to with a small amount of money.

One of the difficulties with the Dad Stock Exchange is dealing with dividends. The author didn’t want to keep up with them. I wouldn’t want to either.

The Dad Stock Exchange may have made a lot of sense in 2003 when the book was written. It may even make some sense today. However, many brokerages allow buying fractional shares and have commission-free trades. As I write this, kids could buy a half-share of Roblox for a little more than $25.

I think it’s better to invest in the stock market for real nowadays. In fact, once the kids were about three, I squirreled away a lot of their birthday money and invested it. At ages 8 and 9 now, they have nearly $5,000 a piece. The stock market has done really well over the last 5-6 years. Also Robinhood had a promotion where they were giving out free stock. Maybe they’ll use this money for their first car someday.

True Net Worth

This section is about understanding that money isn’t everything. There are things that money can’t buy. Essentially David Owen is making the case that quality of life is important. Owens goes through some exercises to show that the most valuable things are memories, not stuff bought with money. It’s an important point to make, but this isn’t any new and/or revolutionary. There’s a reason why I went with Kid Wealth and not Kid Money. Wealth encompasses more than money.

There’s some things in the book that I didn’t find much value in. There was a lot about eBay and Beanie Babies. I think that was more relatable in 2003. It’s good in a historic context. Also, selling stuff on eBay is something that is valuable today. I’m not sure it would make an update edition of the book.

There was also a lot written about the value of reading and reading to your kids. In some ways, I liked how it branched out from more than just a discussion of money. However, I could see many people looking for a book that stays more laser-focused on personal finance and kids. If you are like that, then this book may not be for you.

The True Value of Teaching Your Kids About Money

The author’s father was a life-long money manager. That was his career. However, when the father got older and had some health problems, it became clear to the author that the father shouldn’t actively manage his money anymore. So he tells his father that he has an older friend that needs help managing his money and asks if his dad would do it. His dad says something like “Of course now! Are you crazy? I’m too old and I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Then the author says, “Dad, you are that older friend.”

We help our children learn money today. Tomorrow they’ll be the ones helping us with our money.

If you are interested in learning more there’s an hour-long podcast interview with author David Owens here.

The Best Book to Teach Kids About Money

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.