Teaching Dollars and Sense

Rebecca Turner’s latest book helps kids (and parents) learn financial basics.

In addition to the roles of caregiver and confidant, parents must assume the mantle of teacher across a broad range of subjects. Whether it’s cooking instructor, academic tutor, or general exemplar of acceptable behaviors, parents find themselves constantly sharing the knowledge that builds self-sufficient, confident adults.

For myriad reasons, proficiency with money and finances often gets overlooked. Some parents feel uncomfortable broaching the topic of money with their children, while others simply never think of it. Still others struggle with financial concepts themselves, and inadvertently pass along bad habits to their children.

Rebecca Turner, founder and managing partner of Fort Worth’s Wealth Strategy Advisors, has confronted this oversight with pen in hand. Her latest book, Dimes: To Teach Your Child About Money, allows parents to engage children with fun and simple activities about financial basics.

A veteran writer and financial expert, Dimes is Rebecca’s fourth publication. As a book that capitalizes upon her extensive knowledge of money matters, Dimes fills a particular need that Rebecca observed among her clientele.

“Kids books are timeless, while business books are not,” says Rebecca. “I wanted our clients, their children and grandchildren to be able to learn about savings, and I wanted a gift that I could give to teach about discipline in regards to money.”

The book’s core lesson presents finance basics through the accumulation and management of actual money: the titular dimes. Four attributes — save, gift, tax and invest — serve as guiding principles, and allow young people to develop their own nest egg. If your little one knows enough about money to balk at the notion of counting dimes, never fear: eventually, the dimes get exchanged for dollars, and the child gets to spend a percentage. Rebecca explains:

“At the end of twelve months, the dimes get traded to dollars. The child gets to enjoy the ‘spend’ dimes, give away the ‘give’ dimes, return the ‘tax’ dimes to the person who provided them, and invest the ‘invest’ dimes into a savings account or college fund.”

In addition to providing a fun activity for kids and parents, Dimes: To Teach Your Child About Money presents an invaluable lesson about the importance of restraint. All too often, children spend money as soon as it arrives. Birthday cash and weekly allowances get frittered away in compliance with impulse, and concepts of investment get zero reinforcement. Rebecca’s book acts as a corrective, and provides a crash course in the personal benefits that come from discipline and self-control.

“An early education about finance reveals the rewards of not living just for today,” says Rebecca. “For a kid, twelve months is a long time, but they can enjoy seeing the dimes build up in a jar. It’s something they consciously do every month, and they get a reward at the end of the year. The point is that, if you leave money alone, it will grow.”

The lessons contained in Dimes, while written for children, also have applicability for adults. Many parents fail to realize how their own unhealthy money habits influence the attitudes of children. Rebecca sees it time and again through two basic behaviors: living beyond personal means, and the enabling of a child’s financial irresponsibility. Parents who charge everything model this behavior to children. Later, parents will enable an adult child’s poor decisions through financial support.

“Parents want children and grandchildren to live in good neighborhoods, so they might subsidize lifestyles instead of the child getting a better job,” says Rebecca. “You see a lot of enabling, and it’s often a habit that started years before. As the child gets older, these habits become bigger ticket items: instead of a bike, it’s an ice-sculpture at a wedding, for example.”

A child conscious of the nature and value of money relies less upon parents, and more on themselves and their own savings efforts. If you want to get started on your child’s financial education, order a copy of Rebecca’s book from its website — Readdimes.com — or Amazon.com. At bottom, the book teaches children to take responsibility, not just for their money, but for themselves. In regards to her own childhood lessons about money:

“We had to work if we wanted something that our parents felt was unnecessary,” says Rebecca. “It’s all about getting them to contribute. If the kid sees they have to use their own money for something, they might not want it. Give them a choice, and they see the value.”