Using Money as a Tool to Teach Your Kids Essential Life Skills, with Anisa Kurji
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
This week on The MapleMoney Show, the kids are taking over. Well, not quite, but they are the focus of this week’s episode.
Anisa Kurji is the host of Kids Money and More, a finance podcast with a twist, because the target audience is young kids. In today’s episode, Anisa explains how she stumbled on the idea for her podcast, and she shares some tips to help parents teach their kids about life and money at a young age.
Kids today are impacted by mass marketing like never before, and TV is no longer the main culprit. Every time they go online, they are bombarded by advertising that’s designed to grab their attention. The problem is, most young children don’t understand the value of money, or concepts like saving and spending.
Drawing on conversations with her own kids, Anisa explains why it’s so important for parents to talk to children about the messages they are seeing, and to help them understand how money decisions are made.
Anisa shows us some ways we can encourage our kids to save money. In her own house, she uses something called the ‘3 Jar System’, because it teaches her kids about giving, saving, and spending. We also cover the current COVID-19 financial crisis, and why it’s so important to help our kids understand the impact it’s had on so many families.
Do you prefer to invest in companies that are socially responsible? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, clean tech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to Wealthsimple today!
- Anisa explains what led her to starting a podcast about kids & money
- Kids today are constantly exposed to advertising
- The importance of talking to your kids about the messages they see online
- Helping kids understand the ‘why’ behind money decisions
- How to know if your child really wants something
- Ways you can encourage kids to save money
- Using the 3-jar system to teach kids about money
- Explaining to kids how COVID has impacted families
This week on the Maple Money Show, the kids are taking over. Not quite, but they’re the focus of this week’s episode. Anisa Kurji is the host of Kids Money and More, a finance podcast with a twist because the target audience is young kids. In today’s episode, she explains how she got the idea for the podcast and shares some tips to help parents teach the kids about life and money at any age.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Do you prefer to invest in companies that are socially responsible? If so, our sponsor, Wealthsimple, will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low-carbon, clean-tech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with socially responsible investing, head over to maplemoney.com/wealthsimple, today. Now, let’s chat with Anisa…
Tom: Hi Anisa, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Anisa: Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me.
Tom: Not only do you have a great podcast talking to children about money, I also found out you’re pretty much my neighbor since we’re in the same neighborhood. Talking to kids about money, first of all, I think it’s a great idea. We haven’t done that here. We have certainly talked to the parents to help their kids, which we’re going to do on this episode too, but I think it’s a unique thing you’re doing. Normally, I save the talk about what you’re doing until the end of the podcast but I just want to hear a bit about what your podcast is. What are you doing to help children out?
Anisa: I basically wanted to teach my own children who are seven and four. I wanted to teach them about money. That’s the big ‘why’ that started this whole thing. There were signs that maybe they might be not appreciating something or not understanding the value of what we’re buying. Or why we’re doing something or why we’re not doing something. It might not always be because we can’t afford it, but because we have to prioritize our needs and wants and things like that. So I went on this little venture to find some information and see how I could help my kids and myself with educating them. And along the way, I found there was great stuff for parents to help guide them but I still found it really difficult to explain to the kid’s certain things. There was still always that ‘why’ in mind. And that would lead me down this rabbit hole of questions. I’d be in the kitchen cooking and all of a sudden the kids would say, “But why can’t we go on another holiday. Or, why can’t we do this or that?” They’re always asking great questions but often at the wrong time. I basically wanted to teach them right from the beginning so I put together this podcast to help myself but also to help other parents because I know how difficult it is to find those right words that makes sense, especially to, you know, a six, seven, or eight-year-old when you say, “I’ve got to pay the mortgage.” They wonder what a mortgage is, where do you get a mortgage from and why do you need a mortgage? I wanted to take it right from the beginning and talk to the kids who know nothing. It takes it right back to why we work, the value of money and things like that. I also found through doing all my research, that there’s so many parents who want to have these conversations but feel like they don’t have the knowledge to do it. And I can see why, because, again, when I started on this little journey to do this podcast, I did a whole, content part. I had this massive calendar where I said I was going to talk about this, and this, and this. Every episode had a purpose. Then I found I actually needed to explain this before I can talk about this in order for it to make sense. So, I can understand why parents have a huge challenge in having these conversations. The podcast is really for young kids to listen to so they get that basic information and parents can feel confident in having those ‘stepping stones’ to further conversations where they can find those teachable moments. Instead of having a 10-minute conversation, it’s a one-minute conversation. It’s not so overwhelming. The reason I chose a podcast was because I’m not a YouTuber. I wanted to make it fun and entertaining. I wanted it to be for kids specifically; six, seven, eight-year-old’s. They might not want to pick up a book and read about it but they will hopefully want to listen to it. Most of my episodes are around the 10-minute mark. It’s something a parent can easily just pop on while they’re in the car. They can have a break from having to answer a million questions. And the kids will have some educational entertainment. My kids are on it, too, so they’ll soon make it relatable as well.
Tom: I think one of the things you started to find out as you were talking to them is that what it’s like for them isn’t exactly what it is for us. I see this beyond just money. There’s obviously the whole ‘new math’ versus ‘old math’ and everything like that. With the kids staying at home the last few months, I’ve realized how different I can be. But even how it relates to money can be very different. One of the examples you had mentioned to me previously, is the idea of targeted advertising. What is that and how much different is it from anything we had?
Anisa: Kids are watching YouTube. They’re on social media all the time. They’re constantly being bombarded with adverts more than ever before. It’s playing into those ‘needs and wants.’ That’s one of the concepts I talk about; identifying your needs and wants and priorities. Because when they’re constantly seeing all these adverts, these YouTube videos where they’re unpackaging toys or things like that, it’s all about, “Oh, I want that now. I want that… I have to have it.” It’s just so much more than we were ever exposed to as kids. I know we definitely did have adverts but most of the time that was when we’d take a break and go grab a glass of water because we didn’t have a pause button on the TV. There’s definitely a lot of that going on with social media where you instantly see what everybody’s doing and what everybody has. And the latest thing is on your phone within two minutes. So, yeah, it’s really important as parents that we are talking to our kids about this and making them aware of it. When my kids are watching YouTube, I point out that they’re getting paid to show that to you. They may not actually even like what they’re playing with but they’re getting paid to do it to encourage you guys to want it and start having tantrums in a store because that’s the thing you saw on a show and you want it. I’m trying to make my kids aware of that. And my four-year-old even tells me, “Oh, that’s an advert, mom.”
Tom: It’s good when they can see that. Not only is it built into a lot of these YouTube videos the kids are watching, but then there’s the actual ads on YouTube that are truly targeted. They’ve seen that been to this toy website or something and figure you might be interested in some other toy. I remember when I was a kid, I would watch G.I. Joe cartoons or Transformer cartoons. And yeah, there were regular commercials for the for the toys, but also the cartoon itself was really a commercial for the toys too. These are toys that were already being made and now they have a cartoon around them. In that way, I don’t see it all that different. It was just a lot more subtle back then. But you were being marketed to all the time even when it wasn’t commercials. Now, it’s much more over-the-top where you get these YouTube influencers promoting everything possible. They’ve got their own products as well and will sell to you every minute. Obviously, they need to make money. I don’t begrudge them that. We even have a sponsor here on the show. But, when dealing with kids especially, you’ve got to be a little bit more careful. I love that you’re making them aware. I’m trying to make my kids aware, too, just so they realize that what they’re watching has a purpose. There is a business to this. My kids want to be on YouTube in the future. And your kids are already podcasting with you. There is a positive side. But if you can get them to see the business side of it too, that’s what I’m thinking.
Anisa: Absolutely. They also see the houses. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on that, but you can see the old videos where they’ve gone from one house and upgraded into this mansion and they’re only around 20 years old. They can see the power they’ve got in the business through doing this.
Tom: Well, there’s that one kid that does the toy unboxing. He’s got a deal with Wal-Mart now, I think. And they’re just filthy rich. I can’t think of what his name is right now…
Anisa: His name is Ryan.
Tom: Yeah. Ryan’s Toy Review.
Anisa: Yeah, I remember that because my youngest son is also called Ryan.
Tom: That’s probably the most obvious example of his original YouTube account. It was only about reviewing toys from the perspective of a child. So, yeah, you’re constantly being marketed to. There are certainly other things that are different. One of the other things I wanted to go into is what kids expect nowadays. Just this week, I had my 10-year-old say he wanted to get a cell phone. And I realized this is because other kids he knows have them. I’m hesitant for so many reasons. It seems like an extra expense on our side and something he just doesn’t need. He’s too young for that. What are your thoughts about that—or anything else these kids feel is a necessity that we obviously didn’t need when we were children?
Anisa: Luckily, I’m not at the cell phone stage yet.
Tom: It’s coming.
Anisa: I know. My seven-year-old has asked for one. He doesn’t really have anybody to call but he wants it for games and stuff like that. He does get to use one of our old phones but I’ve made it very clear that it is still my phone. It’s not his phone. In terms of what they really think that they need, let me give you an example. My son asked me for a video game a couple of months ago. He really wanted this video game. He has a Nintendo Switch which he actually saved up to pay for part of it. We paid for most of it but he still contributed. I told him, “Okay, sure. We can get for you for Christmas or if you want it before then, then you can save up for it.” He said he’d wait for Christmas. That was his response. And he didn’t beg for it. He didn’t cry for it. He didn’t say, “Mom, that’s not fair. I really wanted it,” which told me he really didn’t want it. He was just asking to see if he could get it. And I bet you if we got it for him, he’d probably play with it once and probably wouldn’t play with it again. But when he has skin in the game and actually contributing and putting some of his money towards it, that’s the thing that he really values. So, in terms of figuring out whether your kids really want or need something, if they’re willing to save their money and put something towards it, then that is important to them. And maybe your kid might say, “Okay, I’ll save up for it,” that’s for you as the parent to say, “Well, actually, now is not the right time for you,” and maybe explain to them why you don’t think that this is a good time or age for them to have a phone. I think if they understand why, that really helps, rather than just saying no.
Tom: You mentioned saving up for the Switch. My kids, at one point, saved up for a Wii U. It was a similar deal. They saved up half the price and I paid the other half. And we actually bought it used so it came to be much more doable. But I’m so proud of them. They were so proud of themselves. And then the Switch came out. And they did quickly lose interest. I get that ‘skin in the game’ and everything totally relates. Unfortunately, the Switch came out soon after they bought the Wii U and all of a sudden, they wanted that. I told them, “How about you play with your Wii U a little bit longer then we’ll look at the Switch?” which they now have as well. They got that for Christmas. But yeah, the Wii U was one of the first times where they worked for it. It wasn’t just allowance. It was things like doing some extra tasks around the house. They might get $2 here or $5 there to do something above and beyond. They did it and it worked. But unfortunately, the next shiny object came out and they were on to that.
Anisa: That’s the risk, right? That’s going to happen. It’s going to be the same thing with a cell phone. When they get a phone, the next new one’s going to come out two months later and they’re going to want the new one. There’s always going to be something new, something better. That’s when they’re going to have to figure out their priorities and what’s more important. Maybe there could have been an opportunity to sell that. They may not have gotten as much because they bought it used, but they can see the power in selling it as well. There can be a lesson in that, too, right?
Tom: True. We kept it, but that would have been a good way to show them the benefits. I see all these new things that weren’t around when we were kids. One of the things I do see as a positive is the ability to have a little entrepreneurship. Like I said, my kids want to be on YouTube. Your kids are podcasting. Then there are all these side hustle apps. One of the things we’re looking at right now, and I think we’re going to go ahead with it pretty soon, is using Rover which lets you take care of dogs. Maybe cats as well. You take care of them for a weekend when the owner’s away. Technically, you can walk them too, but we’re really looking at the weekend option. We’ve done this outside of the app already, too. We have looked after some neighbor’s pets when they’re away. And for us, it’s a good mix because I’m not too excited about getting our own animal. It seems like a lot of extra work and expense. Two of us in the household don’t even do well with breathing around fur (depending on the type of dog) but for a weekend it seems great. There are certainly other apps like this, too. But do you think that maybe there is a better chance that kids are finding this entrepreneur drive? When we were kids there was still the idea that you go to college, get a job… That was kind of the only path we had. Now, they’re seeing the homes of YouTuber’s and everything and perhaps becoming a little more engaged in the idea there are other things out there.
Anisa: Absolutely. I think it’s great that you’re thinking of doing that as well and showing them they can earn that money while actually doing something they really enjoy.
Tom: Yes, it’s a win-win for us.
Anisa: That’s what I tell my kids as well when they say, “I want to be this when I’m a grown up, and I want to be that when I’m a grown up.” I just say, “Okay, great. As long as you’re doing something that makes you money because that is important.” We do want to not be living paycheck-to-paycheck if we can help it. We want to raise our kids to find those jobs where they can be making more but also that they’re happy in what they do. And serving others as well. If they’re doing something that helps other people, that will mean so much more to them and it will make it so much better for them to do. That’s exactly the idea behind that Rover app will do for your kids as well. They’ll enjoy it. They’re helping other people. They’re making a bit of money on the side to get what they need. Hopefully, they’ll be saving some of it as well. I think it’s definitely a win-win. And there’s definitely lots of those opportunities now, which we didn’t have when we were kids. I never would have thought (in a million years) to start up the little side hustle when I was 10, 11 or 12 years old. And I never got pocket money either. It was very different back then. There probably were a lot of kids back then who were doing things as well but it wasn’t as obvious. We’re so much more exposed to those types of opportunities and the means to do it as well through these different apps.
Tom: There were a few times when I was somewhat entrepreneurial, but I think it was a net loss for my parents. They were things like a lemonade stand. They’re supplying everything. I remember selling a bunch of my old books on the front lawn but I didn’t even buy the books. The books were given to me by my parents mostly, I assume. I was trying to do these things but I wasn’t really realizing the totally, encompassing picture. I was doing this thing and making money. I wasn’t paying for the lemonade supplies. I was just going out there and making a few quarters, I assume. So, I guess the drive is out there. It just wasn’t as obvious. Like what you’re teaching kids with the YouTube videos. You’re getting them to see a little bit of the business side of it and stuff and not just the marketed. You mentioned they’re saving. What are your thoughts on saving for children? Do teach a certain method or anything with your kids?
Anisa: This whole thing is a bit of a learning curve for many parents. That’s one of the great things about starting so young with your kids is that they’re very forgiving. They don’t often see some of the mistakes you might be making like forgetting to give them pocket money. Sometimes they remember and sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay. In terms of encouraging them to save, it was challenging in the beginning. We do the three-drawer system where they put some in their donate jar for giving to others and some in their save jar for later. The rest they can spend and do what they want with. They can buy candy, Slurpee’s, and things like that. It’s a little bit more challenging to spend that money because of the pandemic and not going out so much. But we did manage to overcome that and been giving them different opportunities for the spending. They’re still getting that opportunity to have that feeling of the money leaving their hands, basically, which is one of the important things that we’re trying to teach them. In terms of saving, it was very difficult at the beginning because it’s like going into a black hole. What is a bank? Why do they need my money? When am I going to get to use it? Initially I thought, maybe I’ll incentivize it and tell them that for every dollar they put in, I’ll give an extra 50 cents at the bank. That was okay but we didn’t end up doing that because COVID hit and we didn’t go to the bank. And then I changed it. I did more research on it and decided it’s better when they’re saving, if they are putting that towards more of a short-term saving goal—something they’re having to wait for. That way they get that delayed gratification which is really important. But they actually do get it, so they feel that win. About a month ago, my oldest said he wanted rollerblades. I said we’ll chip in half because and we’ll buy the safety gear, the elbow pads, knee pads and stuff. I asked if he was willing to put in the other half and he said, yes, so I knew he really did want it. He ended up saving up for it. Experts say when they’re first starting to do that saving, try and make it so that they get their goal within three or four weeks just so that they don’t lose interest in it. My last episode was on smart money goals. We went through the process of explaining what a smart goal is and how you can make that about what you’re saving up for. Is it going to be $500 item you’re only putting $1 a week towards? If so, that’s not going to be realistic. That’s not going to happen. But, yeah, for now we’re not doing the bank thing. My husband and I put money in their bank which is fine, but in terms of savings, that’s where they’re at right now. And they’re so invested in it. When they actually get their goal and whatever it is arrives, the look on their faces is just priceless. They really do value it. It’s stuff that we would buy them anyway. We’re not giving them pocket money and asking them to save things that we wouldn’t buy them anyway. So some parents might think it’s an extra expense but it kind of evens out. In fact, we’re actually saving a bit because we used to just buy stuff and then they wouldn’t really care for it. It would be played with once or twice. I can’t tell you how many times we bought them something where they’ve played with it once and off it goes to the back of the cupboard. Whereas now we’re not doing that. We’re not buying many random things. They’re appreciating it and they’re taking better care of their things, too.
Tom: I like the idea of having an actual goal to your savings instead of just seeing the number go bigger because that even works for adults. I’d rather save knowing the savings account is for my vacation fund than just saving for the sake of saving. It’s always nice to know what you’re saving towards.
Anisa: Exactly. It’s that visual as well. You can even just print a picture over the Internet or draw a picture of it and keep it for the kids. Keep it near their saving jar or where they can see it and they’ll be motivated.
Tom: You mentioned this whole COVID thing we’re dealing with. Do you have anything to share on how that might affect children right now? Obviously, not being in school is one way but in terms of money related, job related.
Anisa: It’s difficult to explain because my husband and my situation haven’t changed. We’ve been very fortunate. Obviously, it’s very difficult for the children, especially when they were at home at the beginning for 24-hours a day. That was definitely very hard. Not seeing their friends or their grandparents. That was definitely really challenging. I did a little mini-series about the pandemic on the podcast. I did three episodes explaining different things that were going on with the pandemic. The first one was about why we’re doing all of this stuff in terms of flattening the curve and things like that. And then the next episode was about parents jobs. This one might relate to the kids whose parents lost their jobs or had to put things on pause for a bit. And it’s difficult to explain to kids why that has happened. I tried to do that with that episode and it definitely affected a lot of people—for sure. With the kids in terms of their understanding of what’s been going on and why things have changed in terms of finances now that the parents might not have that income anymore. Now they have to prioritize their needs and wants. Some of the things the kids may have been looking forward to, they now can’t afford because they need to get food on the table. So what’s more important? Parents can help their kids understand that a little bit better through explaining the difference between needs and wants. But it really depends on their age as well as to how much you can share, how much they understand and how much the kids are also willing to learn. My four-year-old has no interest in having the news on. That’s it. The second the news is on he’s upset about it. Whereas my seven-year-old is okay with it. He says, “Do you want to watch the news, Mom? It’s okay if you want to.” I’m kind of over it. At the beginning I think everybody was watching it maybe a little bit too much. We want to know what’s happening though. Parents want to know what’s going on with benefits. Kids can definitely pick up on a lot of stuff, especially on the news. This might make you laugh. My seven-year-old was hearing when Trump and Trudeau said they were going to going to give a billion dollars to this and a billion dollars to that. And he said to me, “Mom, do you have to be rich to be a President or a Prime Minister?” And I asked him why he wanted to know and he said it was because they were giving away a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there. I told him, “Let’s take a step back here. This is not coming out of their own pockets.” Down the road, I’ll revisit that with my son and explain to him about taxes and where the money is coming from. This is also one of the reasons why I’m doing this whole podcast for kids is because, now more than ever, it’s going to be them who are going to be the ones who are paying for all of this—more than us. This is going to affect them in ways we can’t even imagine right now. So we need to be putting those skills into their hands. We need to show them how they can use money to their advantage, not be afraid of it, and be empowered by it. It’s just so important they know these things. Otherwise, they’re going to… Oh, I’m just worried, so worried for them.
Tom: Well, it’s definitely been an interesting time. And like your household, we’ve been pretty fortunate too. Nothing’s really changed for us from a financial standpoint. We did hit the brakes when everything started, especially when this started to look like 2008, 2009 all over again. We decided we’d just hold back on spending and see how this all turns out. As we slowly work our way back to a new normal, I think you’re right, this will carry on for a long time. I don’t just mean the virus itself but the implications of debt we’ve racked up will go on into our child’s taxpaying lifetimes as well.
Tom: Thanks for coming on the show. Can you let people know about your podcast and where they can find you online?
Anisa: The podcast is called Kids Money and More and you can find it on any of your favorite podcast apps. I have a website as well. It’s kidsmoneyandmore.com. The blog posts on there are not the podcast episodes. I had a little bit of an interesting conversation with someone recently who thought the blog posts, which are meant for parents to describe the episode and prepare them for what to expect in the episode and also give them some suggested activities at the end of the blog post to help continue the conversation, were actually an audio version of the blog post. But it’s not. The podcast is completely separate, and it is for kids. Play the audio for your kids in the car or during a screen-free, meal time or something like that. I have a Facebook group as well. And I am on Instagram, but I don’t have anything on there yet. I’m kind of trying to figure out social media. I’m not very big on social media. Obviously, I need to change that and get better with that. You can follow and hopefully in the next month or so I’m going to start being a lot more active on this.
Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Anisa: Thanks so much for having me.
Thanks, Anisa, for showing us some different ways we can teach our kids about money, even at a young age. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/109. Are you a member of the Maple Money Show Facebook community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share a recent money win to encourage others. To join, head over to maplemoney.com/community to share with the group. Thanks, as always, for listening. I look forward to seeing you back here next week.