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Financial boot camps shape up kids’ financial knowledge

Emily Crone

Are you worried your kids aren’t learning enough about personal finance? Afraid you will not be able to teach money basics effectively? Perhaps you should send them to financial boot camp.

A new generation of youth camps are springing up, all with the same goal: To teach kids about money before they have the chance to get into trouble with it. Here are profiles of two of these financial boot camps.

Camp Millionaire
Hosted by Creative Wealth International in several California cities, Camp Millionaire teaches kids aged 10 to 12 the ins and outs of budgeting, investing and credit in five days (hat tip, U.S. News). The coed day camp began in 2002 and uses role playing, games and other activities to explain money management and wealth skills. The program invites the campers to ask their parents certain questions each night after camp in order to encourage family talks about money.

According to the camp’s Web site, campers will leave knowing how to make money (jobs and businesses), how to manage money (budgets), how to multiply their money (investments), how to think and develop the habits of a wealthy person, how to develop passive income streams by investing in assets and how money can be used to give back and help their communities grow.

I’m all about financial education starting at a young age, but I’m not sure a 10-year-old really needs to know about developing passive income streams by investing in assets. I love the idea of teaching them money management basics, but I think the investing and wealth-growing aspects may be more beneficial to high-schoolers.

There is one thing I really like about this camp, though: The site says there is an emphasis on making it relevant. “Your kids don’t care about checkbooks and credit cards yet because they don’t have to use them,” the site says. “We show them why it’s important to care now so they don’t pay later.” I really like this idea of making things relevant — that was one of my major issues with academia. They rarely taught me how to apply what I learned in real life. Kudos to Camp Millionaire.

This camp costs $279 and is held in July and August.

Mad City Money
Hosted in Vacaville, Calif., by Travis Credit Union, this financial boot camp helps 15-to-19-year-olds get a grip on money. The credit union has held several other free literacy programs, and this one aimed to recreate real-life financial situations. There was one boot camp on July 17 and there will be another on August 14. Each session accommodates 25 teens and is free.

According to Sacramento’s News 10, “Boot camp participants are given mythical spouses, jobs, $2,000 to $4,000 per month and options. They have to visit a make-believe mall, furniture store and a car salesman.” They also visit grocery, cell phone, loan and electronics vendors and have to make purchases while still spending within their budget. Writing checks and balancing checkbooks are another component to the boot camp.

After assessing their incomes and debts, the teens have to create a budget. That includes making decisions about what type of meals to purchase, who does what chores, whether to buy new or used clothing, how to pay off student loans, how much to save for retirement, what to do about child care and many other decisions they will eventually have to make in reality.  Some of the campers made interesting choices: Marcus Wion, 15, told News 10 that he chose to buy used clothes for his wife (a truck driver) and new clothes for him (a teacher). “Mine are going to be the best and hers are going to be the worse,” he said. Hmmm.

Marlene Myers, the credit union’s financial education officer, tells The Reporter, a newspaper in Vacaville, Calif., “The program gives them a taste of what life is going to be like when they’re adults. The fact is that when they have a job and families, they will be able to plan for that in a responsible way.” She says when people do not learn how to budget before leaving home, “They fall prey to credit card companies. They’ll have five (cards)and before they know it they have balances of $20,000 to $25,000. They buy cars on a whim instead of looking at what they can afford and what their family needs.”

One of the July 17 campers told Sacramento’s News 10 that after doing this program, he realized how much things actually cost, and now feels differently about asking his parents for something expensive. He says now he’d rather try to earn it or repay them. I bet his parents are happy they sent him to camp.

More financial camps
To learn about more financial boot camps for young adults, read this Wall Street Journal article.

See related: Official: Financial jargon puzzles Americans, The need for early financial literacy

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By the way, my post Credit card postcards from Europe: Volume II was included in the Carnival of 20-Something Finances, hosted by Dollar Frugal.

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  • angel bowers

    my son is 5 yrs old he is out of controll i am a single mom with 3 children ages 3,5,&6.
    I have tried everything to talk to him but it just doesn’t seem to work.If you could give some info or help me in any way.i would be very thankful.Thank you so much.

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  • Janah

    Sounds like a really great program for kids. Keep it up!