Bruce Palmer loves to share stories from his days in small-town radio and television in the 1960s, his experiences as a college basketball announcer in the old Big 8 Conference and his role running a video production company.
Now he has a new venture to talk about -- helping youngsters and adults sharpen their money management skills.
The interactive DVD teaching tool, which Palmer has polished and updated off and on with help from financial experts and others, is organized into 12 different segments and covers more than 40 personal finance topics. All are in short snippets of about five minutes and all as plain-spoken as the title.
The DVD is already used by a few community organizations and financial institutions, and Palmer is hoping a marketing push this spring will attract a broader audience, including families and schools.
Palmer, 70, who recently moved to the Kansas City area after many years in Florida, says his labor of love is an effective learning tool on using credit, balancing a checkbook, budgeting, protecting your identity and other personal finance basics. If he's successful, the benefits will be felt for generations to come.
Be Street Smart About Money carries a consistent message.
"Take control of your money, which means knowing where it comes from and where it goes out," said Palmer.
His money primer offers lessons designed to appeal to three audiences: There is a youth version for grades five through eight, a DVD for high school students and an adult version for college age and up. Each DVD is available for $19.95 and includes a spending diary. Groups and organizations can sign up for an online program that includes downloadable workbooks.
A new Spanish-language version will be offered soon. (Check out http://www.bestreetsmartaboutmoney.com.)
There is no shortage of material that teaches the financial ABCs, but I found Palmer's product to have a major selling point. It's in the storytelling.
Be Street Smart About Money is really a series of highly relatable real-life stories about money told by the people who had to deal with the problem and move beyond it. No special effects, no actors.
Palmer says that regardless of age, users will need to spend time on three core topics -- learning how to monitor their spending, building a budget and caring for their credit. To reinforce the learning, the lessons include quizzes, exercises and glossaries.
For example, the youth version starts with lessons on choosing a bank account, writing checks and making deposits. From there, youngsters can learn about topics such as ATMs, debit cards, overdrafts and identity theft.
Roberta Lindbeck, executive director of the Cross-Lines Community Outreach in Kansas City, Kan., has used Palmer's program in working with mainly young Hispanic adults who are getting acclimated in the community and don't have bank accounts. Besides learning to become comfortable with the banking system, Lindbeck said, two of the most important lessons for her audience are budgeting and learning about payday lenders.
"Once you have that first baby, you feel more responsible," she said. "You also feel more vulnerable."
As Palmer sees it, the key the developing good money management habits is not to avoid the problem but to attack it head-on.
"You don't have to be a financial guru," he said. "A lot of it is overcoming fear."
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)