washingtonpost.com
These Little Piggies Save at Home

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, April 8, 2007

Every opportunity I get, I try to teach my children some money lessons.

In my household, most requests for toys, video games or trips to a fast-food restaurant are met with two words: College Fund.

You may not realize it, but your children do watch, listen and internalize what you say and do about money. For example, my 8-year-old son was ordering from the kids' menu and couldn't decide between a hamburger and a cheeseburger when we were having brunch one day after church. When I asked him why he was taking so long to decide, he said, "Mommy, the cheeseburger costs 20 cents more than the hamburger, and we need that money for my college fund."

I put my right hand across my heart. I was so proud. I let him have the cheeseburger.

"I think this time we can splurge and your college fund will be okay, honey," I said.

If you don't know how to start teaching your children about money, let me help because April has been designated Financial Literacy Month. So for the Color of Money Book Club, I've selected a number of products and books to help you teach the children in your life about money.

I'll start with piggy banks. The first one I suggest is sold by Moonjar ( http://www.moonjar.com or 888-323-0001). Created by Eulalie M. Scandiuzzi, a Seattle native, this is a simple piggy bank, divided into three boxes, that shows children how to share, save and spend their money. The bank costs $6.95 and comes with a cute, little passbook for the child to track his transactions. If you want something more durable, you can get a tin bank for $24.95. Also from Moonjar is "Conversations to Go: The Game that Questions Money" ($12.95). In a box that looks like Chinese takeout, you get 100 small cardboard strips designed to provoke conversations with your kids. Shake the box, and pull out questions such as "Does money buy happiness?" or "What is delayed gratification?"

The ceramic Money Mama Piggy Bank ($29.95) is available at Prosperity4kids.com (or call 866-PIGGY4U). This piggy bank -- mama piggy and three piglets -- has four slots in which children are encouraged to divide their money four ways: 10 percent for charity, 10 percent for investing, 10 percent toward savings and 70 percent for everyday expenses. There is a colorful, 48-page companion storybook to go with the bank, "Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs," both created by California native Lori Mackey. The book ($19.95) includes a bonus read-along CD. The book, CD and piggy bank cost $47.90 as a package.

Mackey has an allowance chart in which she recommends you figure out how much you spend each month on the things your child wants, then make them do chores to earn that money. I wouldn't put my kids on a family payroll. However, if you insist your children work for their allowance, this chart provides a fun and interactive way to connect chores to their pay.

New from Susan Beacham, an entrepreneur who promotes financial literacy, is "Money Savvy Kids @ Home." This $29.99 package, designed for children ages 6 to 11, includes:

· Money Savvy Pig piggy bank. The bank has four chambers labeled save, spend, donate and invest. Purchased alone, the bank costs $15.99.

· A 44-page softcover parent handbook, a softcover workbook for the child and a coloring and activity book.

· An eight-chapter CD-ROM in which Beacham walks you through talking to your children about setting financial goals and making the right money choices. To order, go to http://www.moneysavvygeneration.com or call 866-390-5959.

Finally, Intuit has developed Quicken Kids & Money, a subscription-based Web site -- http://www.quickenkidsandmoney.com-- for children ages 5 to 8. An introductory offer, good through the end of April, is $69.99. Regular price for a one-year membership is $99.99.

I initially balked at the regular price. But after trying the Web site, I was hooked. Computer-savvy kids will love this site, which has several sections, including one for parents, and a KidsZone. As part of your subscription, you'll be sent four money pouches (for up to four children) labeled: sharing, quick cash, medium-term savings and long-term savings.

Intuit has the right idea. Financial literacy has to begin at home.

"We believe the most impactful place to help children learn about money is through their parents," said Denise LaBuda, business leader for consumer education initiatives at Intuit. "We are a culture that really doesn't talk about money, but if we do demonstrate it, it's mostly on the spending side."

LaBuda thinks that schools should play a part in teaching financial literacy but that because our educational system is often value-neutral, it is up to parents to make sure their children don't leave home without the right money skills and values.

As LaBuda put it: "It's hard to unravel the bad money habits once they become adults."

If you are interested in discussing this month's selections or how to teach your child about money, join me online at http://www.washingtonpost.com at noon, Monday, April 23. As part of the monthly book club, I randomly select readers to receive a copy of books donated by the publishers. The giveaway this month will be all the products featured in this column donated by the various companies. In addition, Intuit is donating one-year subscriptions to Quicken Kids & Money. For a chance to win, send an e-mail to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address. Only one product or subscription per household.

Research and reporting assistant Charity Brown contributed to this column.

· On the air: Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online athttp://www.npr.org.

· By mail: Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

· By e-mail:singletarym@washpost.com.

Comments and questions are welcome, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses are not always possible. Please note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company