The topic of financial literacy and personal finance education has gotten a lot of attention the last few years because our society’s economic woes, which in part stem from our individual woes, have smacked us right in the face. One of my wife’s friends visited us a few weekends ago and she explained that the most surprising aspect about life in Europe was that it lacked the “in your face” consumerism that is prevalent here. When you take such a money-driven capitalist system, as we have here, and couple it with practically zero financial education… it’s no wonder we have difficulty managing money! It’s like putting a bunny in with a bear and expecting the bunny to “figure out” how she’s supposed to survive.
The one thing we do accomplish fairly well is literacy (we are in a multi-way tie for 18th with a 99% literacy rate according to Wikipedia), so when I saw a childhood literacy education company offer a financial literacy kit, I had to ask them for a copy to review. (Disclaimer: We don’t have kids, but I am a kid at heart)
The Tessy & Tab Money Manager Kit is a standalone program that builds on the lessons learned in creating and tweaking their literacy product. It’s designed for children ages three through six and lots of fun interaction between the parents and the child. Tessy & Tab have been featured in numerous websites and publications, including Parenting.
The contents of the money manager kit are:
- An instruction manual that explains the three concepts to teach your child about money – where money comes from, what money is used for, and managing money is fun.
- Three “magazines” that are used to teach those concepts – Yard Sale, “Save, Spend & Share,” and Earn Allowance.
- Half a dozen worksheets that help reinforce the concepts (one is a savings plan, how the child plans to save $___ by the time they are ___ years old, with individual milestones, etc),
- Finally, and I think this is a great piece, there are three “Moonjar Moneyboxes,” labeled Save, Spend & Share with a “passbook.” Moonjar Moneyboxes are parallelogram shaped boxes that fit together to form a hexagon like “piggy bank.” The “passbook” is just a way to record deposits and looks like a check register.
Why I Really Like The Kit
I think the money manager kit is a great way to teach kids about money because it lets children act like adults. When I was a kid, my favorite day in gym class was when they turned the gym into a faux city and we all pretended we were grown ups. We drove around the city, we went to work, we earned Monopoly money, and we could spend the money on things we wanted (like car washes!) or save it at the bank. Children are naturally inquisitive and eager to grow up and the Tessy & Tab Money Manager Kit leverages that to teach them about money.
The Books: You begin each module by reading a short book (here is a sample book). In the “Yard Sale” book, you and your child can read about how Tessy and Tab prepare for and run a yard sale and what they do with the proceeds. At the end of the book, there are questions that engage your child. They have to find certain objects, find two words, and answer story questions (one of the questions in the Yard Sale book is “Why do Tessy and Tab need money?”). There is also a featured letter and number and more literacy-type questions that relate to those.
The Moonjar MoneyBox: The Moonjar MoneyBox is one step up from a piggybank because it takes the one-jar catchall and separates them for one of three excellent purposes – save, spend and share. It’s like graduating from just a checking account to a checking, savings, and online savings account. While the kit recommends that you put 20% to savings, 70% to spending, and 10% to sharing – though there’s no reason why you can’t adjust that based on your needs (and they have instructions on that).
Learning By Doing: Finally, on the allowance guide worksheet, there are several rules that parents must follow to really maximize learning. Don’t buy discretionary items for your children, let them pay for their own items and truly learn the value of money (that’s why they think 70% isn’t unreasonably high when kids have to buy all their candy and whatnot). The second rule is to let them spend their money on whatever they want. If they want to make bad decisions, obviously talk to them about it but if they are insistent, let them! Finally, stick with the program and eventually kids will internalize the concepts.
Overall, I was very impressed with the program and if you have kids 3 – 6 and want a framework to help teach them about money, you won’t go wrong with the Tessy & Tab Money Manager Kit.