I have two distinct memories of my association with the concept of money management very early on; one is playing the game of monopoly with fake money and the other one is having a savings bank account with real money (obviously under adult supervision).
Monopoly was my first exposure to curreny (albeit fake) and its buying power. I spent hours playing the game with kids in my neighborhood, building houses and hotels on all the places I bought with my fake money, and collecting rent and paying some. It taught me that if I dont buy and sell my stations wisely, I will very soon be out of money and out of the game.
My other memory is a savings bank account opened for me at my school. I am not sure exactly what grade I was in, but it was something like 5th grade. Our school had this “Small Savings Bank”, an in-house bank owned and operated by school authorities. Kids were allowed to deposit money, but required a parent to be present when withdrawing money. This small bank was my first introduction to passbook and account keeping. I remember insisting on home-made lunches so that I can put a part of my weekly allowance in the bank.
Coming to the point, I still see the benefits of those money management habits formed early on. I don’t think you need to go head-over-heals to teach money management to kids. All you have to do is make them understand that money is important and simple gestures like getting them a game of monopoly or buying them a small piggy bank or getting them an account in a real bank can go to great lengths in doing just that. I also think it’s a good idea for schools to come up with some money management courses (not graded in the classical sense) in which the kids handle and track a small amount of money for a semester/year …or something similar. Young And Rich says on his blog “We go to school for years to learn how to earn money, but nobody ever teaches us how to spend it or invest it.” and I agree with him. Hopefully someone will soon come up with ideas to answer that.
And as they say, old habits die hard (..but just in case they forget the habits down the line…like I did for some time…hopefully they will stumble on some PFblogs and get the old spark back).