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Montreal Families

Book series teaches kids about money management

A new series of children’s stories written by a Montreal-area dad aims to teach preschool and elementary-aged kids basic money-management concepts to help them grow into financially literate adults.

In The Adventures of Princess Mikaila and Prince Pete, children can learn age-appropriate financial wisdom through six short, fantasy-fiction stories featuring dragons, witches, leprechauns and lemonade stands.

Author Mark Tilden, a retired investment advisor, was inspired to write the stories after trying, and failing, to find age-appropriate books about money to read to his young daughter.

Although his father also worked in finance, like many people, Tilden grew up in a household with parents who rarely talked about money. Tilden says a reluctance to talk openly with children about money matters can lead to expensive mistakes.

“When kids grow up, they will all have to manage their money,” Tilden said. “It’s not a surprise that we live in an era where personal debt levels are at historic highs when most people don’t know how to make better choices from the get-go.”

According to Tilden, many families wait too long to begin teaching kids essential financial concepts. While it’s true that most 8-year-olds would struggle to calculate compound interest or understand how index funds work, they are not too young to understand the most primal of personal finance lessons, like wants are not needs.

That’s where Tilden’s books come in.

In The Tree House, for example, Tilden explains the difference between wants and needs through the adventures of a group of children who want to build a tree house. The kids quickly realize they don’t have enough money for everything they’re dreaming of, but by taking out the non-essential items, they are able to complete the project after all.

While Quebec schools are now beginning to teach teens the pitfalls of credit card debt and how to create a household budget, Tilden said parents need to begin explaining fundamental concepts much, much younger.

“Child psychologists say kids’ basic habits are formed by the time they are 8 years old,” he said. “The fact that we don’t teach most kids anything about financial concepts by that age — or in some cases, ever, is just wrong.”

Tilden’s books are available at Babar books in the West Island and online through Amazon and Indigo.

For more information, visit kidsmartmoney.com.

Tilden’s tips to help kids develop good money habits

  • Compare prices with your kids.
  • Explain why it makes sense to buy in bulk when items are on special.
  • Some buying choices aren’t about money. Explain your views on quality and price, and any other factors you consider important in your personal buying decisions.
  • Explain the difference between items the family needs and items they might want.
  • Explain that there is only a limited amount of money to spend, so they must be thoughtful about purchases.
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