A grandfather's wisdom on kids and money

So I was interviewing this author today, for a magazine article, and we started talking about his grandkids. That was to be expected, considering Doug Hewitt recently wrote a book called The Practical Guide to Grandparenting: 101 Activities to Help Nurture and Bond With Your Grandchildren. I mentioned WalletPop to Hewitt and asked if he had anything in the book about making money, while emotionally connecting with your grandkids. I was thinking maybe grandparents and grandkids could bond over stocks and bonds?

Well, no, but he did say that his book tells grandparents how to start a lemonade stand with your grandkids. He says that he also gives the advice in the book (and did to his own kids) that if you want to teach a boy or girl about money, get them not one piggy bank, but three. One piggy bank should be for saving, another for spending, and another for giving. "You can both keep a running tab of what's in all three piggy banks," says Hewitt, "and that will help them see where the money goes."Hewitt, who is a young grandfather at 51, suddenly sounded rather crotchety, which he is not, when he said that he doesn't believe that kids these days have the same financial sense as the kids of yesteryear. When I asked why he thought that, he said, "Well, the boys when I was a kid, they all had newspaper routes, and I worked picking pickles in the summer when I was a young teen, and today's parents seem to buy everything for their kids. I don't want to make it out like all kids are spoiled, but it's really amazing how many kids seem to be walking around with MP3's and cell phones."

Obviously, he probably has a point about the gadgets -- and though I forgot to bring up the fact to him that a lot of young kids have cell phones for safety reasons -- I did counter that the newspaper routes are rarely feasible for adolescents these days, because the afternoon newspaper is practically dead. If you want to be a newspaper carrier and under 16, it's rarely a regular job that you can tackle after school. Instead, you're riding your bicycle in the morning 5 a.m. cold and darkness, and since many new neighborhoods lack sidewalks -- this isn't a cycling ride for the faint of heart. Unless you're behind the wheel of a car, a newspaper route can be just as risky as, say, working on a bomb squad. Maybe riskier.

"That's a really good point," admitted Hewitt. "My parents let us run loose through the neighborhood, but they knew that there were other parents keeping an eye out for us. Nowadays, I won't let my grandkids out of my sight. The world's become more dangerous, it seems. Or we're more aware of the dangers."

Geoff Williams is a business journalist, primarily for Entrepreneur magazine, and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale, 2007).
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