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Money-Smart Kids/Lessons from financial gurus

Published 1:19 pm, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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Staples High School's own Lenny Klein and Sarah White recently received this year's gold star teachers award given by W!SE (Working In Support of Education).

Two years ago, I bragged about them when I learned of a financial literacy class that they were spearheading at Staples. As you know, my philosophy has always been "doing something trumps doing nothing." And not only were they doing something, but they were doing it in a big way. Some of the topics they covered in the course include budgeting, banking and saving, credit cards, taxes, insurance and investing. The course has become extremely popular among students and has blossomed from six sections in its first year to 10 sections this year.

Educating our children in financial literacy is one of the single greatest long-term educational gifts you can bestow upon them. We need to teach the fundamentals so that our children can grow to make good financial decisions later in life. Many parents are unprepared to have this conversation or don't know the answers, and the challenging part is neither do our teachers.

So my next question is "how do we bring this to the next level, how can we help?" I wonder what needs to happen in the next five years to make Westport the premier financial literacy educator in the country -- why not? With all of the talented financial gurus that reside in our town, we could band together to make this a truly community effort. Could guest speakers become part of a regular curriculum to teach kids about "real-life" money lessons?

If our financial professionals committed to volunteering one hour of their time, the results could be astounding. Imagine how powerful a class would be if a teacher's lessons were then echoed with real-world scenarios from mortgage professionals, investment advisors, economists and financial planners. All of these professions are in supply within our town.

This would be a fantastic gateway for the students to participate in the internship program at Staples.

Students would benefit from hands-on learning and our local professional practices could benefit too -- from the extra set of hands and the public relations that would go along with it. Anything we can do to tie the schools and the local businesses together has got to be a win-win.

I have often heard my own financial planning clients brag that a particular part of their finances is sound because "they learned about it in a past job or internship." Today, more than ever before, high school graduates must be financially literate to deal with the ever changing challenges they will face -- college, careers, raising their own children all while trying to live as responsible adults. Congratulations to Lenny and Sarah for leading the way.

Tom Henske is a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York and Stamford. His "Money-Smart Kids" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at thenske@lenoxadvisors.com.