I recently caught up with a group of teenage girls who had given up a week of summer vacation to learn about budgeting, credit and investing at a financial boot camp sponsored by the Financial Literacy Organization for Women and Girls, or FLOW, in Bethesda, Md. (http://www.sitting-pretty.org).
The girls were on a field trip to the local office of Morgan Stanley's wealth management group. I enjoy sitting in on sessions like this to see what works when it comes to teaching kids about money. Investing can be especially challenging because terms such as diversification, hedge fund, fiduciary responsibility and market capitalization can make a kid's eyes glaze over.
-- Keep the lessons basic. You may be tempted to use big words, but remember that kids have a way of cutting through jargon to get to the heart of the matter. In this group, the teens asked, "What's the difference between a bond and a savings account?" "What's the Fortune 500?"
-- Share your own experiences. When one of the teens asked the moderator how she had begun her career, it prompted a series of anecdotes from the Morgan Stanley advisers that captured the kids' attention. One woman had majored in speech communications in college and gained experience working with people by selling sneakers. "Then my mother bought me a share of stock in the utility company, and I left lights on in the house to make money for my company." She eventually went into a broker training program.
-- Get the kids engaged. The morning ended with a game of financial trivia that had the girls literally bouncing out of their seats. Asked to name the most powerful women in the world, they came up with obvious choices such as Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. But they were surprised to learn that the list also includes Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo; Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft Foods; and, in first place, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
One of the girls is still wondering about one thing. "I asked my dad what a hedge fund manager does," she said. "I know they make a ton of money, but I still don't know why." Welcome to the club.
(Janet Bodnar is editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the author of Raising Money Smart Kids (Kaplan, $17.95) and Money Smart Women (Kaplan, $15.95). Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JanetBodnar. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit http://www.Kiplinger.com.)