Money-Smart Kids / Tom Henske
All parents know that having children in school means annual fund-raising events galore. These projects often seem to fall on the parents' shoulders. In a rush to just "get it off your plate" it often takes this course:
1. Procrastinate and wait until the last minute.
2. Yell at your child for not having worked on it earlier.
3. Mad dash to see how many of your relatives and close friends you can call on behalf of your child to get the minimum amount of donations needed (basically to allow your child to save face in front of the other kids).
Maybe the above-mentioned process is a bit off -- but not by much. Yet in following any semblance of the above, you are missing a golden opportunity to provide a teachable moment in your child's mind. Instead of just going through the motions, let's find a way to make these projects fun and educational.
For example, every year we all get hit up to buy Girl Scout cookies. Why would I mind? It's easy to stay in shape as I get older and I can down a box of Thin Mints in one day and still not have to go to the gym. (Not!) But we buy the boxes out of loyalty to the family tasked with making the sales. It is one of the most well-established quid pro quo around. I'll buy your kid's cookies, and later in the year you'll subscribe to my kid's magazine club subscription. I recommend we make it more than that.
Let's make it an exercise in helping your child learn lessons to last the rest of his/her life. My little girl is almost 3 years old and I now know that Daisy Girl Scouts, those in kindergarten and first grade, learn how to handle money, make change and get communication skills. By the time she gets to high school (Ambassador Girl Scouts) she'll be working on creating business plans. I'm hoping that my daughter will be "writing" business plans starting when she's a Daisy Girl Scout, just on a much more basic level. Why wait?
Selling the cookies is a great opportunity to teach goal-setting. The old Stephen Covey adage, "Begin with the end in mind" works, but it needs to be followed with a detailed game plan on how to get there. By working with your child to plot out the steps necessary to reach their goal, you will develop their confidence and creativity. The 30 minutes you take to sit down with your children, show interest and help them get on the right path will pay dividends the rest of their lives -- and yours. Help your first grader or 11th grader for that matter; experience the thought process to develop their entrepreneurial skills.
A colleague with whom I work gets his children to think like marketers when it comes to these fund-raising activities:
"¢ Who is the best target audience for the product or service?
"¢ How do you position the product/service most effectively?
"¢ Is there a unique feature of the product/service you should focus on?
"¢ How would you define the benefit to the target audience?
This exercise gets them to think differently when approaching neighbors versus grandparents, versus family friends.
If they go through this process year-after-year, you have given them the framework to be successful not only in business, but in every aspect of their lives that they should be setting goals. And now that I think about it, is there any area of your life that you shouldn't be setting goals? I'll leave that to you to answer.
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 email@example.com