Guest Post – Increase Your Child’s Money Smarts by John Lanza

Joe the Monkey Learns to Share

Joe the Monkey can’t figure out what to do with his Share jar. When Joe the Monkey makes a big mistake and spends his Share jar money, will his friends help him figure out what to do? Or will he follow his friend Vargas’ advice? Find out if a special charity can find Joe in time for him to make the right choice.



Author John Lanza

John Lanza is the Chief Mammal of Snigglezoo Entertainment, a company he founded in 2006. Through Snigglezoo Entertainment, John created including the award-winning Money Mammals DVD, authored and co-illustrated the Joe the Monkey Saves for a Goal children’s picture book and developed The Money Mammals Saving Money is Fun Kids Club. The Money Mammals Kids Club is a premium, customizable marketing program licensed by credit unions nationwide.

John is passionate about the importance of teaching young kids (preschool and elementary) about the value of money and is active in social media, spreading the message with his blog and Facebook page that building good habits early can help families from having to break bad habits later. John’s mission is very personal in its inception. He and his wife, Eileen, wanted a way to impart the importance of fiscal responsibility on their two young girls. John leveraged his more than 14 years of management, marketing and sales experience in entertainment and media (and parenting) to create and produce the DVD, book and kids club. John has also produced, directed and hosted several live shows featuring the characters and content from his DVD for children across the country.

Prior to starting Snigglezoo Entertainment, John produced the Emmy® Award-Winning hit children’s television show “Life With Louie,” the pilot for the Disney Channel hit TV show, “The Proud Family,” as well as the DVD Premiere Award-nominated animated feature, “The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina” for Miramax. He has also produced marketing products for companies such as Johnson & Johnson, 7-Up, Target, Hasbro and General Mills.



Guest Post

Increase Your Child’s Money Smarts During National Financial Literacy Month

by John Lanza


April is National Financial Literacy Month. I was sitting down to write an article on the importance of teaching kids to be money smart early when I happened upon two news items: “Stephanie Eidelman’s “Forget Cash – Teach Kids About Credit as Early as 6 or 7 Years Old” for Forbes and the “The Ultimate Play Room … at Grandma’s House” video at The Wall Street Journal’s online site. The latter video highlights a disturbing trend. Grandparents are hiring high priced designers to create special rooms in their own homes to entice grandkids to visit. On the surface, there’s something special about it, but, in the end, it just enhances the already strong societal concentration on “stuff” and on spending as a way of showing affection. If grandparents are going to spend money, wouldn’t it be better to witness a trend in which grandparents are bringing grandkids on vacations, hikes and the like — something just as special and certainly more meaningful and substantial? It reminded me just how important it is to reach families with the message that financial literacy is something that can and should be taught early.


In contrast to the grandparent largesse theme of the WSJ video, Ms. Eidelman makes an important and impassioned case in her article for the importance of addressing financial literacy issues with young children. She suggests that because credit is so prevalent, we need to be discussing it more openly with our kids. Money conversations are essential to raising “money-comfortable” kids and I think she’s right to talk with them about credit. With the frequency of credit card use amongst parents, children are already thinking about it and they are undoubtedly confused. She cites numerous conversations with her own young children to make that point, such as, “Recently, my daughter wanted us to buy something that I said was a lot of money and that we couldn’t afford it. She said ‘just pay with the credit card.’ My son said, ‘Sam, you have to pay actual money at the end of the month for whatever you put on the credit card!’ Boom! Seven years old. That’s probably one of the most important things I’ve taught him yet.”


The importance of teaching kids about credit may be debatable, but the importance of becoming a financially literate person at some point is not. It was this part of Ms. Eidelman’s article that I thought was most insightful: “We teach all kinds of things in school. But aside from reading…few things are as fundamental today as understanding credit, saving for retirement, and eating healthy. You can’t start these subjects in high school…habits are already formed.”


I’ve been insisting on the importance of teaching good habits early to avoid having to break bad habits later since my company created our first DVD, “The Money Mammals: Saving Money Is Fun,” in 2005. Our focus was to engage kids in what most understand to be a dry subject: financial literacy learning. Although many parents feel they may be incapable of passing on financial intelligence they think they may not have, it’s critical to understand that many surveys note kids are most likely to learn financial habits from their parents — whether good or bad — regardless of whether they intentionally try to teach them or not. Statistically, kids are also very unlikely to receive a strong financial education in school. Parents should know that talking to young kids doesn’t require them to understand how to make informed investments or calculate compound interest. They just need to start by teaching their kids the basics — the difference between needs and wants and helping them understand that being money smart is primarily about making smart money choices.


Starting kids with an allowance gets them comfortable handling money. Distributing that money regularly into three jars (we use Share, Save and Spend Smart) helps build good habits now that don’t have to be broken later. These lessons can help them learn that sharing money can make you feel great and even better than spending on yourself. They can also learn that saving money for longer terms goals is something anyone can do and that, when you do spend, you should think about it. It only stands to reason that handling money and making these choices are going to make them more “money-comfortable” and smarter in the long run. Sure, they’ll make some mistakes. But, who doesn’t. Think about how much you’ve learned from making mistakes.


Martin Luther King said, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” In her article, Ms. Eidelman makes the case that financial literacy should be handled in schools. I agree with her, but I’ve seen years of effort met with only marginal improvement in what schools are teaching. Most of that effort has resulted in high school programs, which are too late, in my view, to start teaching the concepts. We can wait for schools to improve those programs, “to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” or we can use this April, National Financial Literacy Month, to start doing something about it.