Teaching kids about using money
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Money, Adam Stramwasser. It has been edited for clarity.
You use money. You spend money. You want money. But do you understand how money gets its value or how that value can be expressed through spending or saving or giving?
That is what is on the playbill for today! Because understanding how money works can help you use money more wisely. Would you agree, Adam?
Yeah, a hundred percent. Each country has their own dynamic and the way the value of money moves in China or in Venezuela, where I'm from, compared to the U.S., is completely different. And it depends on the strength of the economy of every country. And it depends on the decisions, the rational decisions made by each country.
Economy! That’s a word I bet most people have a hard time explaining.
Yeah, that's an incredible word, really. Economy is the representation of the value that every individual adds to society.
So for example, Matthew, you're hosting this podcast. Okay. And me? I teach about finance. Each one of us adds value somehow to the system where we live and the economy is the aggregate of all the values that we add and the representation of how we're all productive in this world.
We all contribute to how businesses and companies work and thrive by spending our money in those businesses, or by using the resources made by companies, or by working to provide a service to others. And all of that has value! The aggregate (which is another way of saying the collection or combination) of all of that is what we call the economy. An economy isn’t something you can touch and feel, but it is something you can notice.
So the U.S. has been forever one of the most stable countries in the world. So the value of the U.S. dollars has been pretty much stable. But if you compare it to countries that have been maybe a little bit more unpredictable or countries that have gone through wars or through economic crises, through difficult situations their value of their money tends to be much weaker and tends to go like a rollercoaster, Matthew. It goes up and down without much of a way to predict what's going to happen.
Countries that don’t have as strong an economy are the result of so many of their citizens not being able to work, to earn and to spend money, or to make purchases at the same rate as other, more stable countries.
Exactly. Maybe these are countries that have lots of their citizens without jobs. Maybe these are countries that are going through difficult times that we said before through wars or through economic crisis, that cannot add to their country, that that cannot add value because they're out of jobs or they're they're out of opportunities or maybe they don't have the technological advances that we have that allows them to be more productive.
Everything, you know, will play a role in an economy. And that's why the more advanced, sophisticated, and the more productive we can be as a group of people that form an economy, the stronger the economy will be. And the higher quality of life they're individuals in that economy will have.
So, everybody, now that we’ve spent a little time talking about money from a number of different angles, tell me: How does having money or not having money make you feel?
Ooh. I love that question. I love that question because as I said, money is a tool, so money really shouldn't make you feel anything. It’s what you do with money, okay, what, what would maybe make you feel stuff.
If you have money and you use it for a good thing, you, for sure, you're going to feel good.
Now, if you have money and you use it for the wrong things, even if you have a lot of money, you may even not feel that good.
So having money or not having money really shouldn't have to do with feeling good or not feeling good people that have. Very little money. You know, people that don't have maybe a lot of money or people that are, that can be perfectly happy because they know how to live with that amount of money in.
They know that they can be happy with that. I've known and I've coached and I've advised several people that have millions of dollars, Matthew, and don't feel good about their, you know, about what they do about their lives. They're not completely happy with millions of dollars and I've known people that have only a few bucks and that are completely happy with life.
So it really is about ourselves. I think the most important part is to evaluate ourselves and evaluate how we want to live life. And what we can do and the best that we can do with the amount of money that we have. I think that we can all get more money. I think that we all have a huge potential to get more money, but the most important question is: What do we want to do with that extra money?
Adam talks about the three main ways we can use money. Remember, money is a tool. It’s something you use to help bring about a change.
You should have like three buckets to live life responsibly and to live in a way that you can have the tranquility, the calm that you're doing, the right stuff with your money.
If you have money and you set some of that money in a bucket called “saving”, you know that you're taking care of your future desires or your future needs. You know, that you're taking care of your future versions of yourselves. So you know that maybe in the future, you want to buy a car in the future, you want to be able to say, Hey, when I turn 18 I want to have a car. And that's totally valid. So that's why you have to have a bucket for things that you want in the future. And that's why you use the bucket of savings. You need to save money today. And tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, in order to be able to use that money in the future.
Then you have the second bucket, it's called “spending”. Spending is what you use your money today for. And that also needs to be aligned with your values, Matthew. If you spend all of your money on stuff you really don't need, and stuff you maybe even don’t want for yourself—but you buy it maybe to impress friends or maybe because you think you should have that—where maybe deep down, [you know] you really don't need that. You know that's the way you spend the money. And if you spend it on stuff that is not aligned to your values, to your real needs and wants, then money is not going to be good. You're not going to feel good about having that money and using that money. So we gotta be very intelligent and very smart in the ways that we save money and in the way that we spend money is very important.
Matthew, the third bucket is “giving”. Giving: it's one of the most beautiful things about money and it's the power that we have to spread our generosity, to spread our love, to spread our values and our interests in a way that can help other people, other causes in a way that can really make an impact in this world beyond our needs or wants.
And that, I think Matthew, is my favorite part about the idea of having money; of working for that extra money. It's knowing that I'm going to be able to share it in a way that it can have a higher impact than just my needs or wants.
What does investing money mean?
Investing is really placing your money. It's really assigning your money to a vision, to something that you believe that can become something greater than the money that you have. It's believing in projects that [money] can turn into something bigger. It's believing in causes that can turn into greater impact.
So you can invest in people that have businesses that can maybe give you more money in return for the money that you initially invested in. Maybe it can be investing in the healing of the world through an environmental impact. It can make investing in projects that can make the world a much better place. So you get in return, maybe not money, but maybe a better world. Investing can be many things. If you use it wisely, if you know what you're doing, [your] investing is aligned to your values.
So when it comes to investing, Matthew, I think the most important part is to be very informed about why you're investing in [something]. And it has to be very aligned to your values. You have to know why you are investing that money and you have to have the vision of what you want your money to become with that investment.
Have you ever heard of the website Kickstarter? It’s a place where people can post the projects they’re working on and request that others support or invest in their project so that it can be made.
And with that, I want to pass things back over to Adam for one final thought on money. Because how we believe in money and what we do with money comes down to us and it comes down to you!
It's a fascinating question, Matthew. And I think that when we're very true to ourselves, when we really explore deep inside of us [to find] our real needs and wants, we can know how to best use our money. And we can know that we can and also use the money for the benefit of something greater or beyond our needs and wants.
And that goes back again to the part of giving, right? To the bucket of giving. That goes back again to: [asking ourselves] what do we want to do with our research, with our money beyond the things that we want for ourselves.
And understanding that there are other people that may have different needs, other people that are struggling somehow. And have a need for shelter, a need for food, a need for different types of services. And you know, maybe they're not in a position right now to pay for that need. They're not in that country, maybe that allows them to gain access to that need. And when we are true to ourselves and when we connect to our values and the things that we really want out of this world to live in a kinder, fair world, we can use our money and we can use our way of managing our money to also help others in need.
So we can know Matthew that, okay, we have enough with this and we want to set aside this amount of money to help, you know, that group of kids that don't have any food today on the table, or that don't have, um, yeah access to water or that, you know, don't have a way to go to school maybe.
Money can definitely get us either into trouble, it can lead us to trouble, or it can lead us to a very happy and fulfilled life. And the best way that money can lead us into a very happy and fulfilled [life] is to always live very true to ourselves. Always connect to the most human and beautiful emotions that we have and connect to the real values that make us who we are and not who we expect other people [to be], or other people expect of us or we feel that will make us belong better.
No. Let's just always stick to our values. Let’s always stick to the way we would like to live this life and use that money accordingly.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we have Adam Stramwasser, the author of A Kids Book About Money.