More advisors are helping baby boomers educate their kids about money.
By most accounts, Cooper Shull is better at managing money than most
baby boomers. He saves almost 100% of what he earns and plans to pay
cash when he buys a Nissan truck next year-used, of course.
But Cooper Shull isn't a boomer. He's only 15. What puts him at the head of the class in the financial world is one small but important fact: His grandmother, Denver-based investment advisor Peggy Houser, has taught him how to manage and save money since he was five.
That's just the way Houser planned it. "I see a lot of people come in the door who have no idea what to do with money, and I didn't want my grandkids to be like that," says the 30-year veteran of financial services, who turned the practical lessons she taught her own seven grandkids into the book How to Teach Children About Money (available for $16.98, directly from Houser email@example.com).
Cooper appreciates her diligence. "I feel like I'm way ahead of the game, and I owe a lot to my Grandma for that. I try to get my friends to save, even though most kids just want to spend," says Cooper, who works part time as a snowboard and ski instructor in Grand Mesa, Colo.
Boomers across the country are hoping that advisors like Houser will
teach their children how to take control and make wise decisions about
money. Call it an exercise in "do as I say, not as I did."
If boomers' earning years have been marked by carefree, spendthrift ways and more interest in comparison shopping big-screen TVs or exotic vacations than in getting their 401(k) asset allocation right, they are now at least smart enough to want their kids to avoid the error of their ways.
How critical do boomers believe financial education is for their kids?
A whopping 52% of boomers say they believe that "advice to help their
children become more financially savvy" is the most important financial
planning service a company can offer. That is the watershed finding of
a January study of boomers sponsored by Ameriprise Financial Inc. In
fact, boomers are so worried about their kids' financial capabilities,
their concerns often overshadowed "worries about their own retirement
preparation," the study of 2,000 adults found.
It's clear that boomers want their kids to do a better job of saving than they've done, says Ken Dychwald, president of Age Wave, which conducted the new research jointly with Harris Interactive Inc. Whether it's communicating the benefits of estate and multigenerational planning or just plain helping kids understand money, advisors across the country report that they are getting more requests from boomers' interested in financial education for their kids than ever before.
"This is about so much more than beating the IRS and making kids rich," says Deborah Stavis, a principal with the high-end wealth management and family office firm Stavis Margolis in Houston, which manages $535 million. "Now it's about 'Let's make the kids comfortable.' You can't wait until you're dead to pass people a lot of money and then expect they have the tools to figure out trusts and family foundations," says Stavis.
The Stavis Margolis process starts with meetings designed to get parents and kids on the same page with regard to money and future plans. The firm also invites clients' kids to the quarterly fireside chats they hold.
To educate younger kids, Stavis Margolis will launch two different one-day summer camps in 2006, one catering to kids age five to 12 and the other to teens from 13 to18. Margolis and Stavis have been teaching continuing education classes on these subjects for advisors, attorneys and CPAs at Rice University in Houston for years. They also teach Junior Achievement "Dollars and $ents" classes (for resources in your area, visit www.ja.org). "Teaching classes on subjects like 'The difference between spending and saving' makes us all more aware," she adds.
San Diego-based advisor Margaret "Peg" Eddy's motivation for creating her money-smart educational series for children, From Sesame Street to Wall Street, which she is currently shopping to television networks, was the money program she designed for her own two sons.
"I was not about to start a gravy-train mentality. I wanted my kids to be able to make their way in the world successfully and know they were going to be independent from their Dad and me," says Eddy, who with her husband Bob manages $130 million at their firm, Creative Capital Management.
Before each of her sons turned five, she began giving them an allowance and teaching them the difference between spending, saving and yes, even sharing, using three different envelopes for allocation. If they wanted more money, they had to do work in the house or yard. By middle school, the kids were responsible for paying for some of their toiletries. "By eighth grade, we'd instituted a clothing allowance, so they could make decisions about smaller sums of money," Eddy says.
In high school, the Eddys helped their sons open checking accounts and learn how to balance them, and to use an ATM and low-limit credit cards. They started a "you save and we'll match it" program that allowed Sean to pay half for a Toyota Celica and Ryan, half for a Toyota Forerunner both used, when they turned 16. "They took better care of those cars than any of their friends, because they had skin in the game," Eddy says.
Eddy's crowning achievement, she says, is the summer each of her boys worked at the family firm before starting their first year of college. Ryan did investment research and a white paper comparing the benefits of a Roth IRA to a regular IRA. Sean analyzed mutual funds, edited the firm's Form ADV and went on work on a project for the New York Stock Exchange on electronic trading.
Today, Eddy says, she is more rabid than ever about teaching kids to manage their money responsibly. Until television beckons, she is glad to present her From Sesame Street ... program to civic and planning groups around San Diego. "I have 30-year-old women come into my office who have never written a check or balanced a checkbook before. We're not doing trust fund babies any favors. We're just making them easy marks," she says. "One of the greatest gifts my clients ever give their kids is a few paid hours with me." (By the way, she charges $245 per hour).