Teaching Kids About Money

Teaching Kids About Money

While driving my daughter, Whitney, to school recently we were listening to Whitney Houston’s rendition of the classic song, “Greatest Love of All. The first line of that song is, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. It made me think of recent conversations about money that we’ve been having at our house.

With two teens—a son soon to head off to college and a daughter in high school, money comes up a lot. And, that fits nicely with my professional pursuits—as I lead the team that recently launched our refreshed Student Union site. (If you haven’t seen the site yet, take a look. Here students can find engaging tools, and resources that are critical to building financial literacy in a fun and positive learning environment.)

Conversations about money with my kids is so different than the way I learned about money. My mother was a widowed mother of five so our conversations about money went something like this, “now we’re going into this grocery store, don’t look at nothing, don’t touch nothing, ‘cause you ain’t gettin’ nothing”. All I knew about money was we didn’t have any. Hell, I wanted to go “cuckoo” for Cocoa Puffs just like every other kid, but my mom bought the cereal that just said Cereal on the front of the box. No brand name or fancy packaging, just that white box and black letters-Cereal. My mom kept it all the way Real! I guess she was teaching us delayed gratification.

My kids are privileged, certainly not as privileged as some, but privileged none-the-less. My kids think I’m an ATM. My daughter recently asked me about tickets to go see Adele. Once I realized how much Adele tickets were I told her, “if you want to go see A-Dele, you need to get A-Job”! Does this play out at your house, too? I’m really fortunate though, my kids don’t ask for a lot of “stuff” and their identity and self worth certainly aren’t tied to material things; that’s something I’m really proud of.

Talking to your kids about money is a critical—but not always easy—part of parenting. It’s like talking about sex, drugs, race; all the really hard stuff. They’re uncomfortable and so are you, but it is your obligation to your kids to teach them about money, it will make their life so much easier if they have an understanding of credit, budgeting and saving.

As the author J.K. Rowling’s said, “I’m teaching my kids to be more than consumers”. That’s really at the crux of it for me.

What kind of money conversations do you have with your kids? What conversations do you still need to have?



Youth Sports: Your kid’s not going pro, so relax and let them have fun.

Youth Sports: Your kid’s not going pro, so relax and let them have fun.

“As students and families sign up for sports this fall and winter, we should be asking: if you knew this was just for fun, would you still do it? Would you do this much of it? Would you do it differently? Because if you wouldn’t — or more important your child wouldn’t — then it’s time to put some or all of those hours and dollars into something else.” 

Writer KJ Dell’Antonia puts youth sports in the proper perspective in her NY Times article titled ” Odds Are, Your Sport-Playing Child Isn’t Going Pro. Now What?” (see full article below).  Just because your little “superstar” is scoring five touchdowns a game, scoring five goals in soccer or hitting five home runs doesn’t mean it’s time to go house shopping.  Consider  these sobering facts from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

# of High School Players # of NCAA School Players # of pro draft spots % of NCAA Players who go pro* % of High School players who go pro
Football 1 Million 71,000 256 1.6% .02%
Men’s Baskeball 541,000 18,000 60 1.2% .01%
Women’s Basketball 433,000 16,000 36 0.9% .008%
Baseball 482,000 33,000 1,216 8.6% .2%
Soccer 417,000 23,000 76 1.4% .01%
Hockey 35,000 4,000 211 6.8% .6%

Source: NCAA                                                                                *Includes all pro leagues

Watching your kid participate in youth athletics is one of the most enjoyable activities for a parent. And for the kids, sports teaches them invaluable life lessons: discipline, commitment, overcoming adversity, persistence and selflessness to name a  few; not to mention the health benefits from all the physical activity.

Recently I’ve been  introduced to several wonderful organizations that are doing great work in the area of youth sports. Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” by working to provide all youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.


Student/Athlete advocate and ambassador Seneca Blue is doing fantastic work through his Blue Print for Success organization, working with school districts across the country to improve opportunities for kids by providing character building tools to help them succeed at life.

Most of all youth sports are about helping kids build confidence and self-esteem.   Nothing bothers me more then to see a kid getting screamed at by some adult who peaked in high school and threatens to destroy a kid’s image of themselves.  Nothing can derail a child’s confidence faster then an adult expressing disappointment in them.  There is absolutely nothing at stake during youth sports, except our ability to raise happy, well adjusted, and confident kids who have a positive sense of self.

So your kid’s not going to the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL and that’s ok; remind them that sports are fun and win or lose, you’re going to get ice cream after.



Support Your Kid’s Dreams, but Bring Tissue.

Support Your Kid’s Dreams, but Bring Tissue.

Just outside the Leafs Ice Arena in Normal, Illinois the side walk and parking lot were filled with anxious parents waiting for their dream chasing sons to emerge. Over two hundred 17-20 year old young men from the US, Canada and Europe were invited to the Bloomington Thunder’s main tryout camp.  Each hoping to be one of twenty selected to join the team for the upcoming United States Hockey League (USHL) season and catch the eye of college scouts in attendance. The USHL is the premiere amateur league in the US for aspiring college and professional hockey players. Typically these young men play one, or more commonly, two years in the USHL before moving on to college or pro hockey. Since the average age of a freshmen Division I college hockey player is 20 years old, the USHL experience gives them time to mature physically and mentally.

As the young men began to emerge from the rink, you could see the exhaustion from four days of non-stop competition and evaluation wearing on their hopeful faces. For those who exited early, there would be no invitation to join the team and no college scholarship offer on this day. For these players it meant more camps and more nerve wracking tryouts and evaluations .

While my wife Jacqui took the opportunity to work on her tan and make small talk with other waiting parents, I was starting to wonder what was taking so long for our son Myles to come out. After about an hour, Myles’ tall athletic frame walked through the doors of the arena towards me. He walked with that athlete’s swagger;  slow and deliberate with a slight lean.  His hair was matted and his face white and drawn. We didn’t expect that Myles would be invited to join the team because we’d already notified them that he’d be returning to Minnesota for his senior year of high school. Despite that, Bloomington used the 40th overall pick in the USHL’s spring draft to select Myles, so there was a chance they’d want him play right away.

He acquitted himself extremely well against some tough competition at the camp. His size, strength, and athleticism were obvious despite being one of the younger players. Over the course of the four days he stood out, not only to Jacqui and me, but to other parents who commented on his terrific play.   Although he’s a defensemen, Myles likes the puck on his stick and looks to make plays offensively, fittingly scoring a goal in the first game of the camp. All of this was made even more timely since the coach from Brown images-6University, and scouts from many other schools, were in attendance. Just a few months before, Myles accepted an offer and verbally committed to play at Brown. Of the two hundred kids in attendance, only eighteen had secured a college scholarship to this point.

“Well, how’d it go”? I asked. “They want me to join the team, but they wanted to know if I was committed to returning to Blake for my senior year of high school”. It never dawned on me that we might reconsider a decision we’d seemingly already made.   Over the next month or so we consulted with coaches, players, advisers and anyone who we felt had a useful point of view. Generally the assessment was that the USHL was a grind and would be difficult at first. He would likely be in and out of the lineup until he adjusted to the speed and physicality of the league. From a hockey development standpoint there was no question this was the best move for him but was it too soon, and what would it mean for his educational future?

Brown was supportive of our decision either way.  His grades, ACT score and visit convinced them they were getting much more than a hockey player. With Brown already committed, the focus shifted to how best to get him ready to become a Division I hockey player. Knowing he had at least one and maybe two years of USHL hockey, we now had to give Bloomington serious consideration.

We sacrificed a lot to send both our kids to private school and invested in their education as our number one priority. Ironically, this is how he landed on Brown. There were several other schools interested in  him, some  with more prominent hockey programs, but none could match the education and future opportunities that Brown could offer .  Myles took little time to ponder his college decision, but a decision about leaving home at seventeen was wearing on him and us.

“So what do you think, what do you want to do,” I asked. “Dad, I want to TRY” was his response.

“I want to TRY”. I knew exactly what he meant. He has a dream (and talent) and wants to “claim it”. I’m intoxicated by his fearlessness, yet terrified by the thought of letting him go.  On rapper Wale’s hit single “Matrimony”  none other than Jerry Seinfeld provides the intro by describing engagement and marriage this way: “getting engaged is like the first hill of the roller coaster. All you hear is that clanking noise. Clanking, clanking, clanking up the hill, and then you say to yourself, wow this thing goes high. You reach the top and that’s marriage; marriage is at the top of the hill. And then you go over and you’re just screaming'”. It’s classic Seinfeld. Although Jerry is talking about marriage here, I think the metaphor works perfectly to describe parenting. There’s that initial sense of excitement followed by apprehension and fear as your kids grow more independent. Whether you’re IMG_2644dropping your kids off at daycare the first time, teaching them to drive, or seeing them off to college; it’s all the same thing.  You’re filled with pride as you witness your child’s growth, but terrified of the thought of “losing” them.  It’s cruel that pride and pain can live as such natural companions.

I lost my dad when I was 5 years old, so I struggled deeply with confidence as a kid. My kids inherited none of my self-doubt. Typically, we fail to reach our potential because of the things we say to ourselves, about ourselves. I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the time, what will other people think? Self-confidence is one of the hardest things to acquire, but one of the most critical things to have. For us, this situation was an opportunity to support our son while he stepped out on the “thin branches of  the tree” with confidence. Life is about trying and failing, and trying again and ultimately succeeding; that’s called growth.

By now you’ve likely guessed that we decided to let him go. This past weekend we dropped our son off in a strange place, to live with a family we’ve only met twice, to play for an organization we trust is filled with people of good character, and to finish his senior year at a new high school.  As we said our goodbyes and choked back tears, none of it made sense, and yet it all made sense.  Growth is painful. It’s like that roller coaster Jerry was describing. Raising kids who are “fierce and fearless” means letting go and throwing your hands up in the air on the roller coaster.  It’s a lot more fun and a lot less scary to step out on faith when you BELIEVE.

We couldn’t be more excited to support our son’s dream, and to be blessed with a faith that gives us strength.

IMG_5344Lebron Gretzky: Soul on Ice…to be continued