Game Your Way To Financial Savvy!

I didn't grow up getting an allowance. If I needed to buy something, I had to either earn the money myself or ask my parents for it. By the time I was fourteen, I grew tired of wheedling them for cash. I spent the entire summer babysitting a brat at the dismal rate of seventy-five cents an hour. After eight forty-hour weeks, I had earned $240, and believe me, I didn't spend it lightly. That's one way to learn the value of money -- by shedding sweat and tears to earn every penny.

The other necessity for acquiring financial savvy is wise parental guidance. My husband worked several jobs as a teen, but he also started getting an allowance during elementary school. Like his father before him, he excels at this area of parenting -- teaching our boys to tithe, save, stay out of debt, and plan carefully before splurging on major purchases.

"I didn't impulse-buy anything," the boys announce proudly, returning from an information-gathering trip to Best Buy with their Dad.

Sadly, though, it seems that most parents aren't serving as money-managing role models. In a Time magazine article called The ABCs of Money, Wendy Cole reports on the absence of financial wisdom in our kids' generation:
Over the past decade, the average credit-card debt of Americans ages 18 to 24 doubled, to nearly $3,000. Among high school seniors, 4 out of 5 have never taken a personal-finance class, but nearly half have an ATM debit card, and more than a quarter have bounced a check, according to a survey of 5,775 teens, released in April by the nonprofit JumpStart Coalition For Financial Literacy.
For parents who feel ill-equipped (like me) to teach financial savvy, Cole highlights a tool that might help:
Wells Fargo Bank is providing an online role-playing video game (Windows Systems only) aimed at teaching teens and young adults the basics of financial management -- with no strings attached, although Wells Fargo wouldn't object if users ended up opening accounts at the bank.
Of course, like most things in parenting, handling money well is a habit that's better caught than taught (even via a video game). For more help in getting your own finances straight, read The Debt Slayers in the May 2006 issue of Christianity Today. The article provides links to financial managers Dave Ramsey, Mary Hunt and Gary Moore, whose websites provide information about their ministries, money management, and what the Bible has to say about giving.

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