Learning to balance a bike -- and a checkbook

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2012 - 6:54 PM

During April, which is Financial Literacy Month, local institutions are teaching parents and kids how to be cash-savvy.

Photo: Tim Lee, McClatchy News Service

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Jake Tesch could be the spokes-tween for Financial Literacy Month. The Shakopee 12-year-old has saved about $300, brings his own candy to the movies to save cash and contributes regularly to his own college fund, a 529 account that his mom and dad started for him.

"Saving money makes me feel proud that I have it when I need it," he said. "I don't have to rely as much on my parents."

Jake's parents have talked about money with him since he was in grade school, but only a quarter of young people ages 13 to 21 have been taught how to manage money by their parents, according to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. Part of the reason may be that some parents struggle with finances themselves. Nearly a third of Americans do not pay all of their bills on time and nearly 40 percent of adults carry a credit card balance, according to a 2012 Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

To help parents start the money discussion, TopLine Federal Credit Union is offering three kid-focused seminars, divided by age group, for parents and their children in kindergarten through fourth grade, grades five through eight, and for high schoolers. Topics vary based on age group, including saving, spending and sharing, goal-setting, tracking spending, checking accounts and debit cards, credit reports and scores, and identity theft protection.

"Parents are eager to get this information for their kids," said Harry Carter, president and CEO of TopLine. Every young person perks up when they learn that not paying a cellphone bill because you're mad at the company can haunt your credit for two years, he said. "We talk about how it can make it harder to get a job, rent an apartment or get cheap insurance when your credit is bad."

For younger kids, the discussion will focus on how to save for a gadget or how to handle an allowance. Parents who struggle with providing an allowance (52 percent of American families use an allowance) can ask other seminar participants what has worked for them.

But talking about money needs to be a regular activity with kids. No child develops lifelong financial habits after one seminar, said Nathan Dungan of Sharesavespend.com. "Think about teachable moments when you're at the bank or the grocery store," he said. After the seminar, attendees are given a money management guide to use as a starting point for further discussion, including information about budgets and credit scores.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or jewoldt@startribune.com. If you spot a deal, share it at www.startribune.com/dealspotter.

  • RESOURCES FOR IMPROVING FINANCIAL ILLITERACY

    • "Raising Money Smart Kids" by Janet Bodnar

    • Share Save Spend site by Nathan Dungan (www. sharesavespend.com). Sign up for a free monthly newsletter near the bottom of the home page.

    • Quizzes and games at www.themint.org, including "The entrepreneur challenge," "When will you be a millionaire?" and "What kind of spender are you?"

    • Curriculum for teachers or parents at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/young.html or www.jaum.org and click on "Teach Your Kids the Value of Money."

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