Book Review

Kids’ Money Books

Last April, I put together a quick list of money books for kids to read for financial literacy month. Today, I’ve published a new version with a quick synopsis, money, lessons, appropriate ages, and a rating system.

I recommend kids read at least one money book every couple of months. Warren Buffett once 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.”

As you’ll see, this list is far from complete. I still need to review a lot more of these books. I recommend starting with an age-appropriate book, then reading the quick synopsis to see if it sounds interesting. From there click the book title to read my review or the Amazon link to check out the reviews there. For the books that I haven’t read, the title takes you directly to Amazon.

Title/ReviewAgesStarsMoney SkillsSynopsisAmazon
M is for Money3-6⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Money WordsThis alphabet book introduces kids to money words. There are multiple money scenarios. Kids featured are from many nationalities.See at Amazon
How Much Is a Million?5-8⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Coins, Banking, Interest, Financial IndependenceThis books takes readers on a trip from the basics of coins, through how banks make money, to financial independence of living off of interestSee at Amazon
Grandpa's Fortune Fables7-13⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Comprehensive Variety of Money SkillsFourteen chapters cover a variety of financial topics such as saving, investing, taxes, debt, charity, and home ownership. The book has a code at the end of each chapter that can be used on the author’s website.See at Amazon
The Golden Quest8-12⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Smart Spending, Savings, Compount Interest, Philanthropy, Financial IndependenceThe Golden Quest is unique because it is a graphic novel. Kids will generally want to read it if you leave it lying around. Most kids can finish it in a couple of hours.See at Amazon
American Girl’s Guide to Money12-16⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐EntrepreneurismAmerican Girl’s Guide to Money is perfect for a teen girls who are interested in starting their own companies.See at Amazon
Rich Kids12-Adult⭐⭐⭐⭐Few Money Skills, Life SkillsRich Kids is not the typical book to teach kids about money. Instead it teaches other traits for success. It’s a great supplement book for when your kid has read too many money books. The target audience, whether it is for kids or adults is unclear.See at Amazon
A Boy, a Budget, and a DreamKidsSee at Amazon
A Chair for My MotherKidsSee at Amazon
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last SundayKidsSee at Amazon
Curious George Saves His PenniesKidsSee at Amazon
Give It! (A Moneybunny Book)KidsSee at Amazon
Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for KidsKidsSee at Amazon
Harmoney & the Empty Piggy Bank: A Book about Money, Budgeting, Entrepreneurship, and PersistenceKidsSee at Amazon
If Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, Where Does it Grow?KidsSee at Amazon
Make Your Own Money: How Kids Can Earn It, Save It, Spend It, and Dream Big, with Danny Dollar, the King of Cha-ChingKidsSee at Amazon
Malik's First Job: Financial Tips for Teens and Young Adults KidsSee at Amazon
Milton the Money Savvy Pup: Brings Home the BaconKidsSee at Amazon
Molly Earns Her PieKidsSee at Amazon
Money PlanKidsSee at Amazon
Moneytopia: Earning: Financial Literacy for ChildrenKidsSee at Amazon
No, No, Sonny, Save That Money! A Fun Rhyming Book about Money, Saving, & InvestingKidsSee at Amazon
One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About MoneyKidsSee at Amazon
Pennies for PiggyKidsSee at Amazon
Rock, Brock, and the Savings ShockKidsSee at Amazon
The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with MoneyKidsSee at Amazon
The Four Money BearsKidsSee at Amazon
Three CupsKidsSee at Amazon
Ultimate Kids' Money BookKidsSee at Amazon

(Originally Published: Apr 4, 2022)

The Golden Quest (Book Review)

The Golden Quest
The Golden Quest by David Delisle

I recently went to a financial literacy conference and met many fantastic creators. One of them is author David Delisle who was selling his book, The Golden Quest.

It caught my eye more than any other book at the conference for one reason. It’s a graphic novel. My kids, ages 8 and 9, love graphic novels – especially Captain Underpants and Dog Man by author Dav Pilkey. They prefer graphic novels so much that getting them to read standard books can be challenging. I don’t mind, because any reading is good reading.

David Delisle has a great trick… taking personal finance to a format that kids are happy to read. As much as I like all the money lessons in Grandpa’s Fortune Fables, it’s hard to get them to read “Dad’s money books” (Ugh!) A graphic novel eliminates that pain point.

Not only will the kids want to read it, but they’ll also probably do it in one sitting.

The Golden Quest Good

Getting the kids to read a personal finance book is 80% of the battle in my experience. What kind of book review doesn’t cover the remaining 20% – the concepts that the kids learn. Fortunately, The Golden Quest excels in this area covering the following:

  • Spending on the important stuff

    This is a lesson that even adults could use. By adults, I’m talking about the man in the mirror, at least. I have bought way too much less-than-awesome-stuff.

  • Pay yourself first

    I’ve always been good at saving. I’m not sure if my kids are more savers or spenders at this point. We’ll have to experiment more. I’ve got some ideas, and they’ll be part of an article in the future. In the short term, we’ll continue with giving an allowance and letting them make money mistakes

  • The power of compound interest

    The day after reading the book, my 9-year-old said he could be a millionaire by age 77. The book explained that savings could double in 7 years through investing. I wish I could say that he did the math to learn that $500 doubling 11 times is a million. The book did the math for a half million in 10 years and then made the leap of the next year.

    It was incredible that he brought this up to me! It started a conversation, and I explained that he could invest another $500 yearly to get there even faster. I also said that while $500 seems like a mountain of money at his age now, he’s already had much more than that saved from his birthdays. He also has a lot more in his kid Roth IRA. He’s already got a couple of decades of $500 doubling done.

  • Giving back

    Many books talk about giving but don’t cover some of the advantages of giving. This book explained that not only do you become emotionally rich when you give, but you also build social capital.

  • Financial Freedom

    What good is only spending money on important stuff and saving and investing if it’s just a number in a bank account? The answer is that you can buy your time and experiences… and, of course, that awesome stuff.

These are some of the most important money lessons.

The Golden Quest Bad

One of my kids said it was about a five on a scale of one to ten. The other kid rated it a four. At first glance, those aren’t good ratings. However, these are kids, and they don’t live in a world where nearly everything from Amazon to Uber to Rover dog sitters gets perfect grades for delivering on basic expectations. They look at it as Dav Pilkey novels earning nines. If you grade on the curve of personal finance books, I’m sure it’s their favorite.

My oldest had a notable nitpick – the hero didn’t have a name. He said, “How can you name the dog and not name the main character?” I didn’t even notice it. I think it was intentional so that the reader can imagine themselves as the main character.

I had a minor nitpick as well. A page showed an Albert Einstein cartoon character with the chapter heading “Compound Interest – The most powerful force in the universe.” This phrase is often attributed to Einstein, which is heavily implied on this page. However, there’s no evidence that he said anything like that in his lifetime according to this extensive Snopes research. This minor criticism probably says more about me and has nothing to do with teaching kids about money.

Final Thoughts on The Golden Quest

When I first read The Golden Quest, I thought, “That’s great, but now there needs to be a sequel to teach everything else that it didn’t cover.” After re-reading it and writing this review, I’ve changed my mind. It covers the most essential points of what kids need to know about money entertainingly. I can’t understand what a huge win it is.

The Golden Quest is the kind of book that should probably be re-read at least once a year for a few years. It has tremendous value with a time commitment of about an hour. I would recommend reading it before Grandpa’s Fortune Fables to pique kids’ interest in money.

Rich Kids (Book Review)

Rich Kids ReviewHappy Labor Day! This is a great weekend to watch the Teen Titans Go episode Labor Day. It’s perfect for teaching kids the value of hard work. (Of course, we’re big fans of the Teen Titans Go!’s money lessons, so check those out too.)

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.

Get Your Kids Motivated with Papersalt Books

Motivation Papersalt Books

(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.)

We were on a family trip to Lake Winnipesaukee when a book in a gift shop caught my attention – Grit for Boys – Empowerment Book for Tweens, Teens and Young Men.

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.”

and

“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.

So I bought the book. But I didn’t just buy the grit book. I bought two more books: Papersalt’s Being a Big Brother and Papersalt’s Being a Boy.

These books remind me of Life’s Little Instruction Book, but aimed at the things that matter for kids.

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.

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

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.

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.