"My first grandchild was born in 2006. He's eight now, and his younger sister is four," says Marie Phillips. "Three years ago, I started thinking about teaching kids about money. I didn't do that hot a job with my own two boys, and I wanted to take a more active role with my grandhildren."
She started having family meetings, grandchildren and grandparents and parents. "I thought about what can I do to help the busy parents teach about money. I didn't do that hot a job with my kdis (two boys), and I wanted to take a more active role now." Phillips launched a website, Family Money Values, "to help families use their values to keep their wealth and well-being for generations."
Then she met with her son and his wife to kick her new project, Grandma's Money Camp, into gear. "I'd read about Grandmas who hold summer camps for their grandkids. I wanted to start my grandkids young, and include finance." Two years ago, she conducted her first camp, at her grandkids' home. Last summer, they traveled to a condo Phillips owns on a Missouri lake and spent a week at Grandma's Money Camp. "It was a big hit because there was swimming and other activities too."
Before they left, Phillips worked up an action plan and a schedule. "We toured the businesses downtown and talked about the different ways people can make money. My grandchildren discussed what kind of business they'd like to have." The kids opened a snack and drink shop where they sold cookie packages and lemonade. "They named the business and even created a stock certificate that they took home."
What did the kids learn? "My grandson is very mathematical, so I taught him about compound interest. Meantime, my granddaughter, who's four, learned to identify coins and understand value. I tried to teach them that you get money by making it. It doesn't just come to you. They should stand up for themselves, make their own way in the world. I found a book where kids used a metal detector to search the beach. They found a coin and thought they'd be rich, then found out it wasn't worth much. We used a metal detector, too, and the lesson was that you don't get rich quick. I try to teach them that monetary wealth isn't all there is to life. Money is just a tool. Having it doesn't make you happier. The real wealth of your family lies elsewhere. We watched the movie Richie Rich, which has a good money message: that the real the real wealth of a family is measured in memories and friends."
Her tips for other grandchildren and grandparents who want to learn about money together. "The first thing I did was talk to their parents about it. Were they okay with me teaching money concepts and values to their kids. Then I studied educators' recommendations for how to do this — resources to teach and concepts they should learn. Based on their ages, I figured out what concepts they could learn. My best advice for teaching kids about money: be very very prepared. Then be very very willing to deviate from what you've prepared."
Phillips' grandkids are excited for the next session of Grandma's Money Camp. They're thinking about what business they might run. This time, their other grandma will join in, and maybe some of their cousins.