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The Money Messenger -- Is It Spring Yet?
February 04, 2010


Welcome to Issue #027 of The Money Messenger!

The Money Messenger brings you the latest on your kids and money.

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The Money Messenger

In This Issue

With the first month of the year already behind us, it can seem like the year is off to a quick start. And then here comes February. In our area, this shortest month can feel like the longest. The excitement of winter snow is wearing off and wearing thin. Spring fever is getting ready to kick in - as soon as the weather cooperates!

When those spring fever feelings hit, it can be a great time to start planning for all the changes in store when spring rolls around. This month's articles focus on planning for spring now so you are ready to hit the ground running when March comes roaring in like a lion. By taking your time now to plan and think about what changes you can make, you and your family will be in great shape for spring.

A reader's question some keys to financial literacy as a family

Helpful links and resources

What's next?

Note from Jennifer

As I look back over the first month of 2010, I am surprised at how quickly it has gone. With that comes the realization that some of the goals I've set are progressing nicely and others are still sitting on the drawing board. I'm trying not to freak out or obsess over that last set.

Instead, I'm looking at February as the opportunity to really assess whether those are the best goals for me and my family right now. Maybe we can't get traction on them because they really aren't what we need at this time. Of course, maybe we just need to buckle down a little bit more, too.

It may seem like only giving some things a month is a short time frame. But, I find that if we haven't at least started within that first thirty days then we aren't likely to get moving on it anytime soon. That assumes that it's a goal that we should be starting on right away. Not all of our goals are like that - some are definitely summertime ones - but others are ones we should be working on now.

A good example of this is figuring out what our new allowance program is going to look like. We've tossed around several ideas but haven't reached any conclusions. Our current one isn't work very well for us so we need to move on. I'll give you an update on how we're doing with that in the next issue (or on the blog if we decide sooner!)

Feature Article
Kids and Teens: Spring Chores and Updating Those Lists

It can seem as if spring will never get here, and then suddenly it is here in full bloom. Literally. The grass is growing. The flower beds need to be made ready for planting. All kinds of spring cleaning needs to be as houses get opened up from winter. It all makes for great new chore lists.

Chores will likely not be on the top of the list for your kids and teens. In fact, spring chores may fall just behind semester exams or going to the dentist of many kids. Supervising those chores may fall into the same place for you. Even planning for spring chores can bring groans from everyone.

Doing that planning now can really payoff when it's time to get started though. Here are some suggestions on how to make the planning and changing the chore programs a little easier.

  • Make a game of coming up with the chores that need to be done in spring and summer. Run it as a lightening round with a timer. Try to think of chores for each letter of the alphabet. You are just trying to get a list now without worrying about who is going to do them.
  • Limit the amount of time you talk about doing chores. Talking about it can seem as difficult as doing it (rolling eyes anyone?).
  • Consider whether an allowance should be tied to chores. If you do that now, should you change it so that chores aren't paid? Or, if you are not paying for chores, should you consider it? Is there an opportunity to have some household chores that aren't paid and extra ones that are?

This last item is honestly where we are struggling with our kids. We believe that they should have some work tied to their allowances to help them understand that money comes from work. It's finding a balance of what we are paying for that presents the challenge.

Depending on the age of your kids or teens, you might also want to consider a chore contract. This can be a great tool for tweens and teens to get and feel more personal and household responsibility. You can do a full contract or just use the supplement for those extra spring chores. If you need even more help, check out the new Teen Chore Success ebook which comes with two bonuses including a 6-day e-course here.

Feature Article
Teen Summer Jobs: Getting A Head Start

Good's only February. That groundhog just saw his shadow, and it's already time to think about summer jobs?


At least it's time to start planning for a summer job even if it's not time to start looking or applying for a teen summer job just yet. Late winter and early spring are the best time to think about whether teens want to work for themselves or work for someone else. They can figure out how much money they want and need to earn over the summer to pay for their entertainment, school clothing or save for a car.

Try these tips for summer job planning to help your teen get on track.

  • Sit down with your teen to do some financial planning. What expenses are they going to have during the summer or next school year? Do they want to play sports that cost extra money? Are they going to need to pay for part of their clothing? Are they saving for a something big - whether that's a car or a new guitar?
  • Help them think about whether a job or working for yourself is the best fit. Take this quick teen entrepreneur quiz to see if you would be a good fit to work for yourself. Working for yourself can provide flexibility and the freedom of being your own boss. It also comes with extra responsibility.
  • Look at summer jobs working for someone else as well as summer jobs that are great for the self-employed teen.
  • Review the worst jobs for teens to make sure your teen doesn't miss the safety aspects that are important no matter the money.
  • Look at these tips on landing a job and then on keeping the job after that.

It's hard to say what the summer job market in your area will be like. Planning now can help make sure that your teen is in the best shape to take advantage of any opportunities that they want.

Ask the Editor!

Here's where I answer your questions. Gwen would like to know how to increase financial literacy for everyone in her family, but especially her 10 and 12 year old sons. Are there any ways to learn as a family that are fun?

I love to hear about families that are learning together. Financial education and literacy are ongoing learning processes that can last a lifetime. Setting a good foundation now can be the best gift you can give your kids and family. And it doesn't need to seem like schoolwork or be boring.

Here are some ideas on how to involve the whole family and make it fun.

  • Play games as a family that have some money-focus. There are classic games like Life and Monopoly. Those are great and have versions that can keep it interesting, including kids' versions for younger kids. Another option is to play card games like poker that involve betting. Before you freak out that you are teaching your kids how to gamble, think about what they will learn. They will need to learn to count money as well as understand risk and reward. The last part is especially helpful when they are ready to learn about investing (and not because it's like gambling!).
  • Start a family budget and involve everyone. Money management is also about using money wisely, so kids can learn the basics of this by seeing at least certain pieces of the family budget and helping track expenses. Have them see how much gets spent on food and help think of ways to save money on it. Can they cut coupons or look at the weekly ads? What about cooking at home more?
  • Play a stock market simulation game as a family. Even if you don't have all the bells and whistles that are part of the official Stock Market Game, you can still start with a pretend pile of money ($10,000 is a good amount) either in total or for each person. Then each week, you can research investment options, buy and sell stocks and track your results. This is definitely for kids who are 10 or older although even younger kids can be part of a family team.
  • Create a family investment club. When you are ready to start dealing with real money, a great way to learn about investing with real money is to set up an investment club with your family, including extended members or in the neighborhood. The Motley Fool's Investment Club information is a great place to get started.

These are just a few ways that learning about money as a family can be fun and still educational. If you have other ideas you'd like to share, post your story or tip here.

Useful Resources for You

While strives to provide all the information you need to help educate your kids, teens and family on money matters, there are other great resources to help you. This new section of the newsletter highlights those that I've found that provide solid, understandable and usable information.

Coming soon...the next issue of The Money Messenger

March is waiting to come in like a lion in a few short weeks. Next month's issue will focus on teaching kids of all ages about saving and investing. Whether they are just starting with their first savings account or playing the Stock Market Game at school, all kids can benefit from learning about saving and growing money in addition to earning and spending it.

If you have questions you'd like to see addressed for that issue, just use the Contact Form or email me at

Talk to you soon!

Comments or suggestions?

If you have any comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please let me know. I want to be sure that this newsletter meets your needs. Feel free to provide your comments using this contact form.

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