Toward the end of 2007, the U.S. financial market began its largest decline in seventy-five years. As the markets plummeted, millions of Americans watched in shock as the values of their assets, retirement plans, and homes plunged. Four years later, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, the financial world rests upon delicate footing. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. The financial industry is in the midst of significant reform. Most people’s home values and personal wealth levels have yet to recover fully. Yet the pace of change in the financial marketplace seems to be speeding up, not slowing.
Over the last twenty years, the financial industry has created a dizzying array of financial products and financial options. Whether one is attempting to mortgage her home, establish a retirement account, simply open a bank account, or gain some exposure to the U.S. stock market, it has never been more challenging to navigate the complex financial marketplace around us and to feel confident with the various financial decisions one must make. If that alone is not enough to digest, today the U.S. Tax Code (more specifically, Title 26 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations—the portion written by the IRS) is 16,845 pages long.
Similarly, the instant access to information that the Internet has enabled is both a blessing and a curse; while it may be easier to get answers to most of one’s financial questions at the push of a few buttons, there also is far more information than ever before to sift through and digest.
In this daunting world of financial complexity, Joline Godfrey has come to the rescue. In her book Raising Financially Fit Kids Joline provides parents of kids of all ages with a series of relevant, easy-to-grasp financial tools to assist them in raising children with a healthy set of financial values and a degree of financial fluency. These are among the tools that all adolescents need in order to navigate successfully through an increasingly complex financial world.
As the Chinese philosopher Laozi encouragingly offered, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In similar fashion, one’s financial education can be—and I would argue should become—a lifelong pursuit of self-discovery and self-improvement. While many experts in the field recommend that parents begin their children’s financial education when they become teenagers, Joline astutely challenges this view. She encourages parents to start their children’s financial literacy at the age of five.
As my grandfather Irving Harris, a pioneer in the early childhood development field, often reminded me, learning begins at birth, and it continues for as long as one is open-minded to the integration of new ideas. Children who start to practice the basic concepts of counting, saving, and spending at a younger age have more time to practice and master these skills. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell asserts the extremely high correlation between preparation and success. Essentially, the earlier in life one begins, the more one can practice. The more one practices, the more competent one is likely to become. Financial education is no exception. In this manner, Joline’s book provides parents with a wonderful set of tools to enable them to begin their own children’s financial education as soon as they are ready to start learning and which will continue to provide families with age-appropriate financial education guidance as adolescents begin to spread their wings.
Whereas many books of this type simply provide parents with a basic set of formulaic suggestions and exercises, Raising Financially Fit Kids elegantly connects the dots between parenting and financial education, and the fundamental interconnectedness of these with children’s physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development. As a pioneer in the financial education field with deep roots in clinical social work, education, and early childhood development, Joline has successfully developed a program that is simultaneously nuanced and straightforward to follow. In other words, parents who are secretly unsure of their own ability to provide their children with appropriate guidance needn’t worry; this book is certain to provide comfort even to the most apprehensive parents.
In recognition of the fact that children’s intellectual and emotional capabilities develop over time, Joline has divided her book into several sections, each of which is developmentally appropriate to a specific age range. Along the way, she explains the complex relationships between a child’s saving, spending, and earning habits and his or her self-esteem, and the ways in which children’s developing relationship with money can be influenced by the establishment and reinforcement of a solid set of financial values and habits. She also provides parents with a broad array of tools that are easy to utilize and which will help to destigmatize a subject that too often seems taboo.
After all, money itself is neither intrinsically benign nor evil. Rather, it simply is a tool—which, if utilized responsibly, can enable people to become and stay independent, achieve their financial (and/or philanthropic) goals, and generally lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
While the financial world may seem endlessly complex and at times awfully intimidating, this book is just the opposite. Parents who doubt their own financial competence should relax, for help is on the way! Whether your own family is of sizable wealth or modest means, Raising Financially Fit Kids will provide all parents with a set of easy-to-understand tools to assist them in raising children to become savvy, self-confident, financially independent adults who have mastered a solid set of social and financial skills and values.
As Joline poses in her book, “What kind of child do you want to raise?”
I hope that you will turn the page and find out.
Jack Polsky, CEO
William Harris Investors, Inc.
Excerpted from Raising Financially Fit Kids, Revised by Joline Godfrey. Copyright © 2013 by Joline Godfrey. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.