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Money-Smart Kids

Published 1:03 am, Friday, January 1, 2010
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I love it when a plan comes together.

Friends of ours, Trevor Price and Megan Sheetz, live in New York City and are very proactive in trying to develop financial literacy in their home. We gave them a gift of the four-chambered piggy bank to help develop savings, spending, investing and philanthropy habits in their children.

I couldn't have scripted what happened next any better.

Trevor and Megan raise money for their friends, whose son has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal condition that eventually robs young boys of their ability to walk, breathe and for their heart to pump blood.

They've raised more than $50,000 over the past three years by running marathons, triathlons etc. From my past articles you know what a proponent I am of letting your kids see you being charitable beyond just writing a check. If we stopped the story right here, I would be happy. But it gets better.

This year Meg ran her first New York City Marathon so they launched a fund-raising page. Every night at the dinner table they would talk about who they had reached out to, who was due a `Thank You' note, and who had really "stepped up to the plate," so to speak.

One evening, they were discussing the topic and their son, Charlie, disappears to his room. He then emerged with his four-chamber piggy bank, and declared, "Mom ... Dad ... I want to donate this to the sick boy," pointing to the "Donate" chamber. It gets even better!

It then turned into a math exercise -- counting quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Stacking them into dollar increments and then adding up the total. Charlie had $26.72 in his Donate chamber.

They went over to the computer. Trevor took the money (here's a lesson on "exchange") and made an online donation of $26.72 using his credit card as Charlie watched along.

After the online donation was completed, Charlie read his name on the scrolling "Honor Roll." He saw all of his family members who had donated, the parents of his friends in school, and Mom and Dad's friends, among others.

Charlie then got up from the computer, went to find his mother Megan, and said, "Mom, I feel really good that I donated money to that sick boy."

Wow, that is powerful.

How is that for permanently creating an impression in Charlie's mind about the family's value of giving to others?

It is not a lesson plan that could easily be replicated in a classroom environment. Further proof to my theory that financial literacy is best taught under your own roof -- a

responsibility that should be shouldered by parents.

As an afterthought to the story, Trevor, without Charlie knowing, took the $26.72 and divided it up by three and put it in the Save, Spend and Invest chambers.

Like father like son!

Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, developed the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program in conjunction with MassMutal Financial Group. He can be reached at thenske@lenoxadvisors.com