- Financial writer Allan Kunigis
Shelburne financial writer Allan Kunigis had always written for adults, from articles to reports, when he received an unexpected email from Jason Schneider, editorial director for Skyhorse Publishing in New York City. Schneider had read an article Kunigis had written for Synchrony Bank about raising financially savvy kids and asked whether he'd consider creating an activity book aimed at teaching young people about money.
The offer piqued Kunigis' interest, and A Kid's Activity Book on Money and Finance: Teach Children About Saving, Borrowing, and Planning for the Future — 40+ Quizzes, Puzzles, and Activities was published in September. The 80-page book, featuring illustrations by John Kurtz, combines easy-to-understand financial basics on topics such as earning, saving and smart money choices with engaging workbook activities. Aimed at readers ages 5 to 8, the book intersperses vignettes with crossword puzzles, dot-to-dots and word searches.
Below, the father of two grown daughters shares some insights about kids and money.
Kids VT: Was it challenging to write for kids instead of adults?
Allan Kunigis: [After I received that inquiry email], I reached out to a good friend of mine, a wonderful teacher who had taught my daughters in third and fourth grade in Williston, David Bolger. He gave me permission to be silly, to rhyme, to have fun, to channel my inner child or my inner Shel Silverstein. That was a critical breakthrough for me. I just sat down, and ideas would come. The goal was [to] write an age-appropriate book that was both fun (otherwise, why would the kids read or participate in the activities?) and educational — the whole point. I wanted to entertain the kids at the right comprehension level and slyly educate them about money.
KVT: Why is it important for kids to learn about money?
AK: As a society, we have issues revolving around money. Financial literacy is an enormous concern. Why do so many of us do such a bad job managing our money? We need life lessons taught to kids at a young age, when it can really resonate or make a difference. My understanding is, there is probably no age at which your child is too young to learn something about money — even the most basic things about how we get and spend money, and simple choices we have to make every day or week or month.
KVT: Can you offer parents a few words of encouragement when it comes to teaching their children about finances?
AK: It's corny, but invest the time with your kids, and it will likely pay dividends. Yup, I'm a walking dad joke! Seriously, just talk with them about money in an age-appropriate way, and give them opportunities to earn it and to save it. Give them an allowance. Start a bank account.
KVT: Can you share a lesson you taught to your kids?
AK: Here's one of the coolest things I ever did with my girls. I borrowed the concept of "matching contributions" from workplace retirement savings plans, in which some employers will match a certain portion of what you, as an employee, save. I applied it to allowance and saving. I told my girls that I would match the difference in their bank account at the end of the year. If they started with $100, and it grew to $250, I would match that $150 that they had saved with another $150. That was highly effective in getting them to think about saving, and then tangibly rewarding them for it.
KVT: How can parents encourage kids to think altruistically about money?
AK: Instead of giving kids a piggy bank where the money just disappears, give them three clear jars, which they can divide their money into: saving, spending and sharing. The idea is to raise children who not only know the value of saving money, rather than just spending it as soon as they get it, but this also teaches kids the value of giving to those who are less fortunate, and entrenches that value so it's a normal part of money management. Teaching kids about money is also teaching them about values.