Study Up On Money Matters

Today, less than a quarter of states require a personal finance class for graduation.

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If you want your edification with a dose of fun, games abound. Laux suggests looking for games that involve role-playing, such as creating a budget or acquiring money or property. "You need to engage the person in the doing of it for it to be understood and for it to take hold," she says. This fall, the Seattle start-up Bobber Interactive launched GoalCard, a cash-management app integrated with Facebook that encourages people (well, probably kids mostly) to establish a savings goal and work toward it. Players get points for certain spending patterns (not too much junk food, putting a portion of each paycheck to savings) and for succeeding on quizzes, for example. The points end up as cash on a "debit card" that can be used at partnering merchants in Bobber's online "mall" when players achieve their goal.

If having more money isn't incentive enough to master personal finance, maybe your kids will be. A 2008 University of Arizona study surveyed 2,000 college freshmen and found that the effect of a parent's teaching about financial matters was twice that produced by a high school class and twice that produced by a part-time job. You don't need a Ph.D. in finance to hold class: Let young children play "store," says Laura Levine, executive director of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, which advocates for finance classes in schools. Elementary school kids can observe parents comparison shop, begin to understand the difference between wants and needs, and learn to save for a rainy day. Beck suggests showing older kids how to run a budget, and talking to them about your mistakes. You'll want to keep training their savings muscles, too, since they're so clearly key to future well-being.