When you are the parent of tweens, sometimes it surprises you tohear words other than “I’m still hungry,” or “Can I have $10?” comeout of their mouths.

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Related: Financial literacy boosts retirementpreparedness

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(Sometimes, it’s a surprise when any words come out of theirmouth at all!)

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I was treated to one of these surprising conversations recentlyas I watched my son play NBA2K16 on his Xbox while I editeda story about the fiduciary rule. I startedreading the story out loud, and I assumed he was tuning me out.Apparently he wasn’t, because as I read a paragraph aboutretirement accounts, he chimed in with this:

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“Mom, I know what an IRA is.”

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"You do?"

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“Yeah, we learned about it in social studies. We learnedabout IRAs, CDs and treasury bonds. Watch me makethis shot.”

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First of all, my son has never met a dollar he couldn’t spend in10 seconds flat. I’m not sure actual currency has ever existedinside his piggy bank or wallet. So the fact that any conceptrelated to saving money made it to hislong-term memory was a pleasant surprise. Second, I don’t evenunderstand treasury bonds that well, so I was duly impressed.

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Third and maybe most importantly, this conversation (with thechild who regularly forgets what day it is) sparked my interest.Exactly how much financial literacy is part of thecurriculum in schools today?

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I’ve seen all kinds of reports that decry the lack of educationabout personal finance in early education and call for increasedemphasis on teaching children about managing and saving theirmoney. I’m not familiar with how much financial literacy isrequired as part of various school district curricula, but I’vebeen impressed so far with some of the ways my kids have beenexposed to financial topics.

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When my boys were in fifth grade, for instance, their entireclass participated in a financial education unit focused onteaching business, economics and free enterprise by creating a townas a class project. The students had to apply for a job by creatinga resume, getting letters of recommendation and interviewing withadult volunteers. They had to elect a mayor from four candidateswho campaigned, made posters and gave speeches. They had to learnabout income, including paying taxes, and how to balance acheckbook. And they had to learn how to price the products andservices their businesses would sell based on supply anddemand.

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The unit culminated in a one-day field trip to YoungAmeriTowne in Denver where they put their new skills intoaction. I had the privilege and pleasure of participating as anadult volunteer on their field trip (and serving as the town’snewspaper editor, naturally.) It was a wonderful experience for thekids. They enjoyed playing various roles — the policeman (whoearned his paycheck by writing tickets to townspeople caughtrunning instead of walking), the DJ (who played music and read paidadvertisements for town businesses over the loudspeaker), theenergy company manager (who fixed ‘random’ power outages atbusinesses) and many other jobs. On their two breaks during theday, the kids could go buy products from the other businesses (themost popular were snacks at the grocery store and cardboardbriefcases the box company employees built). After their fieldtrip, the students had to turn in their checkbooks to demonstratewhat they learned about living within their means.

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Full disclosure, two of my boys lived meticulously within theirmeans, and one purposely overdrew his checking account because,duh, it wasn’t real.

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Just a short year later, my son is now explaining treasury bondsto me while simultaneously playing a virtual game of basketball inthe ‘boy cave’ that I’m sometimes allowed to visit. His brotherwandered in, and both told me about the financial unit they hadjust completed.

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One of the things they both loved is that they got to name thedays of the week after financial concepts. Money Monday, TaxesTuesday and Thursday, Financial Friday. Apparently they couldn’tcome up with a W word to go with Wednesday.

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Then they each were assigned financial terms to look up andexplain to the class.

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“I chose the questions ‘What is an IRA?’ and ‘What is betterbetween a savings account and a certificate of deposit?’ An IRA, anindividual retirement account, is an account that you can put moneyinto that you can then take out when you are retired.”

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Not too shabby. And what about the second question?

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“I said savings accounts are better, because you can takeout money whenever you want, and you can put unlimited money in. Asfor a CD, you can only take the money out when the CD isdone.”

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His brother didn’t miss a chance to correct him.

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“Technically you can take the money out, but you ruin itbecause you have to pay fine.”

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I asked him what he learned about.

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“We learned about emergency funds. An emergency fund is anaccount you make so you have money if something that affects yourlife breaks or is damaged and has to be replaced. And we learnedabout taxes. Taxes are a bill you have to pay that goes to thegovernment. Taxes suck.”

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This is a pretty refreshing line of conversation coming fromchildren who argue if one or the other is breathing too loud andspend inordinate amounts of time watching and giggling over videoslike “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves.”

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Not surprisingly, their interest in discussing various savingsvehicles and financial concepts began to wane quicker than myfascination with their knowledge did.

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“Mom, are you actually writing about him playing video gamesfor your magazine?”

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“No, she’s going to write about us talking about treasurybonds.”

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Kind of.

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I reached out to their social studies teacher, BarbaraEulenstein, to find out more about the financial education unit shetaught. In Colorado, economics is one of four social studies focusareas required for sixth graders along with geography, civics andhistory. The curriculum states that students must understand thedifference between saving and investing and how each can improvefinancial wellbeing, the advantages and disadvantages of saving forshort- and medium-term goals, the importance of an emergency fund,and that saving is a prerequisite to investing.

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Eulenstein said her students showed interest in how thefinancial world works. They asked questions about credit cards,interest and mortgages. Instead of lecturing the students,Eulenstein engaged them in different ways to help them learn theseconcepts, including studying real-world advertisements, playingboard games, researching websites of banks and financialinstitutions, using online tools and watching videos. Thestudents each studied different bank products and worked togetheras a class to understand more challenging financial topics.

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"It is very clear from what I have read in the news and frompersonal conversations that people need to know more about managingmoney,” said Eulenstein. “I wanted my students to learn fourthings about managing their money: (1) know the difference betweendebit and credit cards, (2) pay off credit card bills each month toa zero balance, which means they monitor their purchases on thecredit card each month, (3) avoid bank fees (i.e., overdrafts, ATMfees), and (4) know how to save money and why that isimportant. I thought if they were aware of these four thingsat age 12, then they would be prepared when these became parts oftheir lives.”

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So is there a dearth of financial literacy education in ourschools today? I don’t know the answer for sure, but anecdotalevidence from the boy cave in my house suggests there are reasonsto be optimistic.

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