During my family's Christmas celebration, I learned a little more about my oldest nephews. I don't see them often, so it's hard to know what interests them. This year, I learned that six-year-old Alex likes art. You can bet I'll be encouraging this productive hobby — the only other two things I know he likes are dinosaurs and video games. I was also pleased to learn that his older brother, Michael, likes money.
“I have $86 saved,” Michael told me. “It's for my trip to Florida.” The two boys were taking a trip over Christmas break to visit their grandmother.
“That's great,” I said.
“And grandma is going to give us each $100 to spend at Disney World,” Michael added, “but I might save some of it.”
Michael turns nine tomorrow. To encourage smart money behavior, I sent him a book for his birthday. While compiling my guide to personal finance books as gifts, I was intrigued by Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids. This book by Gail Karlitz received rave reviews. Kris and I both read it recently, and we think it's perfect for Michael.
The first thing the book covers is inflation. Many adult books never mention the subject, so it's refreshing to see a book aimed at grade-schoolers put it front-and-center. “In 1960,” Karlitz writes, “a kid with a quarter cold buy a pizza and a slice of pizza for 15¢ and a soda for 10¢. Today, you'd probably need at least $2 to buy the same meal!” (Or $4 if you live in my neighborhood.)
Growing Money has good chapters on banks and bonds, but most of the book is devoted to the stock market. Karlitz has written a brilliant chapter on how stocks work, using a hypothetical pizza parlor as an example. By keeping the scope small and understandable, she's better able to convey concepts like equity, dividends, and IPOs. (She doesn't always use those terms, however.)
The book also contains chapters on the history of the stock market, how investors make money, and how to buy and sell stocks.
The final chapter introduces the “Growing Money investment game”. Using $10,000 of imaginary money, participants buy and sell investments following the rules of real-life investing. The goal is to see how much money each person has at the end of six months. Yes, this is just like any other stock market portfolio game, but it's aimed at kids. I think it's an excellent way to introduce children to the stock market. When my Michael finishes the book, I think I'll challenge him to a duel!
Growing Money offers a solid introduction to saving and investing, but it does have some weak spots. Only one page out of 120 is devoted to mutual funds. Because the book is aimed at children, taxes are barely considered. Still, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses.
Though this book is designed for children, I think most adults could profit from reading it, too. Actually, it's a great book for parents to read with their kids. Growing Money provides clear, concise explanations of important financial concepts. It's the sort of book to buy for your nephew, but read yourself before you pass it on.