I once read something online that I assume was meant to be somewhat of a joke, even if true: Over 60% of parents would rather talk to their kids about sex instead of money, but 100% of kids would rather their parents speak to them about money instead of sex.
As a tutor and substitute teacher, I get frustrated thinking about the fact that we require kids to solve quadratic equations and diagram sentences, but we don’t teach them about consumer debt and understanding assets and liabilities. I guess some schools do have these programs, but apparently, attendance is low in these offerings probably because they don’t sound fun.
However, money is funny, but not generally in a LOL way. In our society, we have extreme relationships with money. Here are some recent conversations I’ve had with adults and kids:
- Some kids see only two extremes: Beyonce & Jay Z or poverty. They don’t hear about the plumber making $70k a year, slowly building net worth to become a millionaire.
- When kids are asked if they are familiar with the term of net worth, they usually know about celebrity net worth, from the media, but not from their parents or their neighbors.
- Some people don’t think saving is fun or meaningful and will spend all their money (and even spend money they don’t have), while others hoard too much and never treat themselves or give back.
Almost every adult I talk to says they wish that they were taught this stuff in their younger years.
I had wanted to start a project to address this, but it just kind of sat there in my mind, never coming to fruition…. until…. The Rockstar Community Fund (RCF) came along. When the challenge was put out there to try to make as much impact in your community with $20, I had to think outside the philanthropic box. So, I thought, what if I could use $20 to give to a kid to entice them actually to want to learn about personal finance. And then, even better, what if they had to give a portion of that back to a good cause… what fun!
I emailed J. Money my idea, and he agreed to support a ‘test’ session through the RCF…. Wow… how cool! So, I came up with a basic program and said that I would match the RCF money.
Now, since Budgets Are Sexy is the least boring blog on personal finance, Jay made a point to remind me that kids need this stuff to be fun, in order for them to be engaged and actually use the information.
So, by reading this blog post, and by getting online ideas from the Rockstar Forum, I completely overhauled my original “curriculum” that was called “Personal Finance Workshops for Youth”…. Snooze fest, I know!
The program is now called “The School of Rock Your Money: “Mo Money, No Problems!” When I met with the kids, I explained that what Biggie meant when he said “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” was probably more about being thrown into stardom. But for the average person, more money means fewer problems and more freedom. The group got it right away, and they LOVED the reference to Biggie….. that’s a big thanks to J$ for catching their attention!
So, let’s talk about the actual Mo Money workshop.
MO MONEY, NO PROBLEM INTRO
When the three high schoolers showed up, I think they were skeptical about what this about. The parent just told them that it was a workshop and that there would be an incentive for them to attend, but they didn’t know what.
So, I had the kids introduce themselves including their ages. I asked if anyone had jobs outside the home, but none of them did. I asked them if they ‘liked’ money and there was a lot of smiling and head bobbing.
So, I explained to them that the goal of the Mo Money, No Problem session is to help them create a healthy relationship with money. I explained that some people get themselves too far into debt and then other people are so driven by accumulating wealth, that they ruin relationships or act unethically. I explained that this a great middle-ground and balance. I also explained that there is nothing wrong with wanting to make more money, but understand that money is just a means to freedom, but not necessarily fulfillment in and of itself. I talked to them about the online FIRE community of people ‘retiring’ in their 30’s to pursue their passions, without becoming a millionaire or a celebrity.
Then we started getting into the topics.
WHAT IS MONEY, ANYWAY?
I pulled out three wads of cash for them. I had ten singles and two fives in each stash. Then I explained a little about the concept of money. I held up a blank piece of paper and then a one-dollar bill. I explained that both were pieces of paper, but I asked which was more valuable. Obviously, the dollar. So, I wanted to make the case that money is a system that was developed by humans. Money doesn’t grow on trees, it is printed, and you won’t find a “money” element on the periodic table. (What would that look like anyway… Mo?)
I wanted to get across the concept of ‘life energy,’ as outlined in Your Money or Your Life. However, kids won’t really relate, and they feel like they have a ton of time left in life. So, instead, I asked them to think about what their favorite activity was. Then I said, what if you had so much debt or spent all your money that you had to give up your favorite activities. They didn’t like that idea. So, we went through an activity to show them how to calculate their ‘true hourly wage,’ when you include taxes, commuting time, and other expenses associated with a job. That hit home pretty hard, and they understood that for each purchase, they could determine if it is worth giving up their favorite activity for a set amount of time… whether 15 minutes, 15 hours or 15 years! If it wasn’t worth it, put that money instead into a freedom fund.
I also emphasized that “rich is having money, wealth is having time,” so get your freedom first, then more money.
“An entrepreneur is someone who will work 80 hours a week, to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else.” – Lori Greiner, Shark Tank
The first group activity is that I asked them to come up with ideas on how they could turn $20 into $40 within a week. I left the room and the other adult moderated. I came back after 10 minutes, and they had some great ideas that we discussed: buy things off of Craigslist and resell; find items at thrift stores and repair for resale; find old jewelry and dismantle to make new jewelry.
As a follow-up to this activity, we talked about entrepreneurship, and I brought up the topics of residual income and real estate investing. I asked: How would you like to make $1,000 per hour? They all nodded in agreement to that one! I stressed the importance of residual income and saving money and collecting interest to get out of the category of having to trade an hour of time for an hour of pay for the rest of their lives.
We talked about net worth and what is an asset and a liability. None of them had known what these were. They said they only hear about the net worth from celebrities, but not from parents or neighbors.
I walked them through the concept of homeownership and how some people include it, but others don’t because it is not liquid since you need a place to stay and you still have to pay taxes and utilities. I then compared that to a rental property that cash flows after all expenses are paid.
We talked about buying a car. We used a $20k example, and that when it is driven off the lot, it immediately depreciates. If someone has a $17k loan, the car could depreciate faster than the loan gets paid down. We then talked about putting that same $20k into a retirement account, and I asked them to calculate the balance a year later if they get a 10% return. They realized that they would have $22k a year later and made $2k for doing nothing!
I also commented that thinking about building net worth will help you choose between buying the Air Jordan shoes or the Nike stock.
I gave them the recommendation to start calculating net worth sooner rather than later, to stay motivated to keep it increasing. They really seemed to like that idea.
NEVER GIVE UP
“You never have to think outside the box, if you refuse to let anyone put you in a box.” – Sir Richard Branson
The last concept discussed for making money was never to give up. I explained that several successful people made multiple attempts and failed, before hitting the big idea. So, I said, for the rest of your life, never give up on your dreams, passions, and desires for a fulfilling life.
At this point, I had them do ‘money art.’ I gave them each an extra dollar bill so that they wouldn’t have to use their own and I told them to get creative and mark up the bill to place somewhere that they will see it every day and stay inspired. You can see the attached photos, and I wrote down everything they wrote in a separate document. They LOVED this activity.
“Those with a greater purpose, are more successful than those who want a better car.” – Robert Herjavec, Shark Tank
Lastly, we talked about ‘giving back.’ I explained that giving back is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. I told them that the workshop was initiated and funded by the Rockstar Community Fund. I explained the concept of ‘people over profit’… no exceptions. I also explained to them that money isn't loved and it won’t hug you back. Relationships and human connections are very much a need as food and water are needs.
So, I had them spend some time writing about how they can make money while making meaning. They talked about donating profits to help children with illnesses, cancer research and feeding the homeless.
I then had them write a letter to Nate and Jay to thank them, while also providing feedback on what they learned. I was very proud of what they wrote!
I concluded by encouraging them to set goals. I also reiterated that money wouldn’t love you back or give you a hug when you need it. Money shouldn’t come before meaning and people. Love people, respect money.
So, in closing, I gave them two assignments:
- Start making both short-term and long-term goals and review regularly.
- Take $10 out of the $20 and give it away and report back: one bought a meal for a person; one bought a school dance ticket for a friend, and one gave half of the $20 to his brother.
Mo Money, No Problem FEEDBACK
So, that was the end of the Mo Money, No problem session. It lasted a little under 90 minutes. I then asked for feedback, and I was so thrilled with the responses! Below are the notes on what they told me verbally.
- Activities were fun
- $$ Incentive
- Thinking outside the box concepts
- Our generation needs more of this
- Positive vibes
- It was a lot of fun
- Time went by fast
- Learned new facts that we didn’t know: assets, liabilities, net worth
This was a really wonderful experience. If anyone is interested in the Mo Money, No Problem seminar reach out to Brian for more details.
Brian is a dad, husband, and an IT professional by trade. A Personal Finance Blogger since 2013 who, with his family, has successfully paid off over $100K worth of consumer debt. Now that Brian is debt-free, his mission is to help his three children prepare for their financial lives and educate others to achieved financial success. He blogs at Debt Discipline.