A Teen Girl's Guide to Managing Wealth

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, September 7, 2008

When I handed the book to my 13-year-old daughter, Olivia, she groaned.

Of course, that's the reaction I get from her on just about anything these days. She seesaws from the charming girl I knew and loved just before she turned 13 to this eye-rolling, moody person I hardly recognize.

So it was with much trepidation that I asked Olivia to help me review a book about money aimed at teen girls. At least the book's size, a paperback of just 96 pages, could easily fit into the small purse she carries wherever she goes.

So thank you, Olivia, for reading -- under duress -- "The Teen Girl's Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money" (Watson-Guptill, $8.95), by Jessica Blatt with Variny Paladino.

Blatt is the author of a series of teen books targeted at girls. She also writes for CosmoGirl and CosmoGirl.com, as well as for Seventeen and Glamour UK. Paladino is a financial consultant for public television's "MoneyTrack." She has also served as director of the American Savings Education Council and the Choose to Save public service campaign.

This book is packed with information. It has interactive exercises that explain basic financial terms and concepts, job-hunting tips, and a good section on how the stock market works. It's well illustrated with cartoon-like pictures of multiracial teen girls and cutesy, colorful graphics throughout.

Blatt and Paladino hooked me with the first paragraph: "When it comes to money, the most powerful four-letter word you can learn isn't an obscene one. It's save."

Oh, how I love that word.

But what did Olivia think?

Well, first I had to hunt her down and take the telephone out of her hands to get her opinion.

"I thought it was a good book," she said. "I liked that it had activities, a word search and quizzes."

For a second, I thought she might be patronizing me or angling to get her telephone curfew extended. But she wasn't. She liked it, she really liked it.

"If I was going through the bookstore and saw it, I'd probably pick it up even though it's not typically what I lean toward," Olivia said.

She thought the book might be "overkill" for her, given what her mother does for a living.

Although the book is written in McNugget-type chunks, it isn't a dumb-downed talk about money.

"The stuff in the book is a lot simpler than other things you see about money," Olivia said. "The book breaks things down and puts it in steps rather than throwing it all out there at you."

That last sentence was aimed at me. Ouch!

I do lecture Olivia too much about money. Still, I was pleased the book helped emphasize certain points I've been making, and in Olivia's view, without the parental droning.

"I get now why you think credit is evil," my daughter said.

She also thought the "Money Mishaps" chapter was helpful. The chapter lists various scenarios and explains how to get through tough money moments that can scar a kid.

"It was things that really happen," Olivia said.

For example, the authors advise teens on how to handle teasing if they wear off-brand clothes.

"It takes strength and courage to ignore bullies, and it will be hard -- especially if, deep down, you would like to have brand-name styles. But know this: While brand-name luxuries can make you feel good for a fleeting moment, you don't need them."

If you're having a hard time getting through to your teen about money, give her this book. Priced at $8.95, it's an affordable way to start that must-have money talk you've been putting off.

"I guess it's important to learn this stuff now so when you grow up to be an adult, you already have a concept on how to use your money," Olivia said after reading the book.

I wanted to hug her after that comment. But I knew better.

Every month I randomly select readers to receive the recommended book, donated by the publisher. This month I want to do something a little different. I'd like to limit the giveaway to teen girls who submit a brief essay -- 200 words or less -- on why it's important to save. If you're an educator or community leader who works with girls, this would be a great project. The entries for a free copy of "The Teen Girl's Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money" should be sent to colorofmoney@washpost.com. All e-mails should include the teen's name, age and mailing address. With a parent's permission, I may also print some of the answers.

Each month, as part of the book club, I also invite the author or authors to join me online to talk to readers. Blatt and Paladino will be available to answer questions at noon Sept. 25 at http://www.washingtonpost.com.

· On the air: Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and 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.

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