Missing Half: How to Help Kids Build Self-Awareness
By Brian Page
April 27, 2017
Part of financial literacy is knowing how money works, which is common instruction in schools that offer a personal finance class. But to be truly capable, and enjoy better outcomes, adults must also understand the social and emotional aspects of money. That constitutes The Missing Half of financial education. In this series, Right About Money contributor and award-winning financial literacy teacher Brian Page examines how to nurture behavioral skills that lead kids to better financial outcomes in adulthood.
Here’s a typical afternoon at my house: After work, I pick up my oldest son from after-school activities and then take my middle child to basketball practice, where I lend a hand as assistant coach. My wife takes our youngest child to tumbling class. With no time to cook—and no possible set dinnertime amid these activities—we stuff a crock-pot in the morning and everyone eats when they can.
In the evening, my wife and I juggle the kids’ homework while putting in some after-hours time on our computers. By late evening we are exhausted. Is this anytime to talk about our budget? Of course not—and we know that. Our exhaustion might lead us to make ill-considered decisions, just to be done.
Most parents know what I am talking about. Free time and stress-free moments are rare at this time of life. That is important self-awareness. It leads us to do things like automate our retirement contributions and monthly bills.
We make dates to discuss bigger financial decisions to avoid making them rashly. This works for us, and I want it work for my students too—so that they will not have to learn by mistake.
Self-awareness is one of the core competencies described by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. It is a behavioral skill that helps overcome the roller coaster of emotions that often accompany our daily tasks and challenges.
I created a lesson for my class specifically to nurture self-awareness in a financial setting. This lesson begins with students divided into two teams playing Family Feud.
To answer a question, players on both sides can borrow time from the next round. But one team gets less time to start with—and if that same team chooses to borrow time they do so at a higher “interest rate” than the other team. That is, they forfeit more time from the next round. This puts pressure on them to make a quick, and often wrong, decision. It demonstrates the difficulty adults have making money decisions when they have little free time.
Dual-income households working longer hours and having little time at home is the new normal. Ozzie and Harriet are gone; they’ve been replaced by working parents that moonlight as unpaid drivers and tutors for their kids. My hope is that students come to understand the importance of managing the time scarcity that comes with being a parent.