July 16, 2009 4:06 PM
The ABC's of Saving
I love kids. Let me just make that clear at the start. And as a mother of two, my appreciation and excitement about the littlest ones has only grown stronger. But what continues to surprise me is how wise kids can be, wise beyond their years.
The scene was an unusual summer camp for kids in Denver, where instead of soccer and swimming, 2nd and 3rd graders participate in activities like "The Savings Game." This camp, part of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education is designed to teach money matters.
I visited the camp for our Children of the Recession story tonight on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric." We wanted to explore whether the recession has prompted more parents and teachers to start teaching kids Finance 101.
At least 50 eight and nine year olds were seated on the floor in front of me and I asked them questions such as: why is it important to save, what's a credit card, etc. but then I wondered if any of them actually knew someone who lost a job so I asked.
I never expected such a huge response.
Easily, three-quarters of them raised their hands. I remarked to my colleague, producer Mary Hood that I was raised in a working class neighborhood and didn't know anyone who lost a job when I was growing up.
"Both my uncles lost their jobs," a young boy named Ellis told me.
"One of my friend's moms closed her business because the economy is doing terrible these days," Michael said.
Malcolm's grandfather lost his job when his business was forced to shut down. "It's very hard for him to find jobs," he said."
Erin's dad lost his job in February but she told me the experience taught her something. "You really need to save a lot of money just in case something bad happens."
And here's where the wise part comes in. Across the board, these kids said they would have better money sense when they are grown-up than grown-ups today.
"I think it's because when you guys were little, you guys didn't know, you guys weren't expecting the economy to change like this and get so low," Will said.
"I think us kids are going to be better because we know what the economy is like and when you guys were kids, the economy wasn't that bad so you could just go and spend your money without really worrying much, without someone losing their job," Blake said.
I couldn't help but wonder if grown-ups learned what these kids are learning, maybe we wouldn't have gotten in this financial mess in the first place.
And as for the number of kids who know someone who lost a job, the response shows today's kids are deeply aware of the hardships so many people face in this bad economy.
We certainly try to shield our children from the pains of life, but in these tough times, it is impossible and all you can do is hope they are able to take something away from it that will be positive, like the lessons our grandparents learned during the Great Depression.
I think today's "children of the recession" are getting a similar lesson and that's not such a bad thing.