Best books to help your kids learn about money
Groucho Marx once said: “I don’t care about the money, so long as I get it.” His quip about finance may chime with many of us. After all, if you are reading this, the chances are you already have a healthy interest in all things fiscal. But what about your kids?
Do they take an interest in money and, if not, how can you grab their interest in the subject?
The Money Advice Service estimates that just 40% of young people are taught the essential money management skills that will serve them well throughout their life. So anything parents can do to boost their children’s understanding and respect of money can only be a good thing.
Here, we take a look at eight of the best money-related fiction and non-fiction books for children, as chosen by experts including The Book Trust.
Daisy and the Trouble with Piggy Banks, Kes Gray,
Daisy Books, £5.99, ages 5-7
Daisy is green with envy when her best friend, Gabby, parades her latest toy, a scooter that squirts water. She wants one, but her mum says she can’t afford it, so Daisy raids the piggy bank. However, “the trouble with piggy banks is they’re nearly always empty”.
This is the first line of a book that teaches kids that money doesn’t grow on trees and saving is essential, but really hard. This is especially the case if you need £97.23 to buy a £99.99 scooter, in which case you’ll have to work far harder than raiding a piggy bank and gutting the underside of your settee in search of lost coinage.
The quality of the humour and narrative in The Trouble with Piggy Banks is consistently high. Some of the gags are ingenious and lift this from just another kids’ book to something adults can enjoy reading to their youngsters – a bit like Spike Milligan’s poems.
Here’s one to leave you with: “Have you got any rich relatives? I asked Gabby. ‘I’ve got a nanny and grampy,’ I said, ‘but they bought me a piggy bank with no money in it, so I guess they must be poor.’”
How to Get a Job, by Me, the Boss, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Illustrated by Sue Heap), Walker, £6.99, ages 5-7
This addition to the list is possibly the most bizarre. After all, how many five- to seven-year-olds need advice on how to write a CV or tackle a job interview? Yet it is brilliantly imaginative and very amusing. I read this to a six-year-old whose eyes lit up when he heard the following: “You could be a police officer and arrest everyone.”
Another listener, age seven, was not so sure about the following advice: “You must always bring your CV when you are trying to get a job. Here’s what you shouldn’t bring: Your whole family. Your gerbils.” Fair enough, I thought. The seven-year-old finally agreed, after we discussed it at length.
This book is sharply written, dead funny and informative. It’s not the sort of book you just read to a child or expect them to read themselves. You have to stop every so often to explain a point, but this doesn’t interrupt the flow. It may be aimed at Key Stage One children, but there’s no doubt that some older kids would benefit from the sage advice Sally Lloyd-Jones dishes out.
The Financial Fairy Tales: Learning before Earning (series), Daniel Britton, The Financial Fairy Tales, £5.99 each, ages 5-11
I wish I’d thought of the concept of a series of fairy stories that are personalised so that the young, primary school-aged reader, as well as their friends and family appear as characters. Fortunately, I didn’t and so the reader is treated to an engaging ‘series of stories to encourage young readers to learn about money, enterprise and the business of life.
And they really work. Beautifully illustrated and written with verve and humour, they draw the reader into a magical world that is peppered with moral lessons, which are rightly at the heart for financial education. Through books such as The Last Gold Coin,
Dreams Can Come True and The Magic Magpie, Daniel Britton weaves a magical tale that grips the attention while subtly dripping positive messages about the need to save, share and be responsible with money. They are a true delight that will bring a smile to any child’s face – unless one of them draws the short straw and sees she shares the same name as the wicked witch.
Billionaire Boy, by David Walliams, HarperCollins, £6.99, ages 8-12
Imagine the best pantomime you’ve ever seen. You want downright funny with plenty of jokes and slapstick, but enough sauce, wit and wry humour to keep the grown-ups engaged too. Well, this is the literary equivalent. David Walliams is an exceptional writer, and comparisons with Roald Dahl are apt.
He has a talent that comes through love, via a poison pen. In this case, it’s the story of a fat, spoilt boy, who has everything but friends. Joe Spud – that’s the boy – understands nothing about the value of what is in his possession. His tale is very well written and heart-breaking at times, as this boy has clearly been sculpted by a lazy, stupid father, whose only contribution to civilisation is the invention of a loo roll that is damp on one side and dry on the other one. Needless to say our hero’s dad makes a mint.
This is one book for parents to read to their kids, and let them dwell on the value and the nastiness of money. It’s also very funny. Did I say that already?
Millions The not-so-great train robbery, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Panmacmillan, £6.99, ages 8-12
Damian is obsessed with saints, so it comes as no surprise that he thinks of higher things when a bag full of cash lands in his lap, having been mysteriously launched off a passing train. Along with his brother, the more cynical Anthony, they start to spend, spend and spend. This book slips from a normal piece of teen literature into something very special. If you want your kids to learn the value of things,
it’s a good starting point. Just imagine giving two pubescent boys hundreds of thousands of pounds. Would they give it all to charity? Can they open a bank account? No, apparently banks don’t recognise leisure passes from swimming pools. Instead, they spend it on dodgy toys and mobile phone downloads until someone comes looking for their cash.
There is a strange preoccupation with us joining the Euro, which seems very peculiar, given I never thought this ever on the cards, but put this aside and you have a cracking read. After all, any book that name-checks Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and David Niven, and is all wrapped around a moral tale about the dangers of having too much money without responsibility, can’t be all bad.
The Story of Money: from Bartering to Bail Out, Martin Jenkins (Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura), Walker, £12.99, ages 9-13
Imagine a world without money. Now try to explain how this phenomenon evolved… to kids. For the likes of you and me, it would be the equivalent of describing the pharaohs and the pyramids to a Martian. This book is very, very clever.
It presumes you know nothing about money and its origins, and it builds up from this starting point. In around 60 pages, this odyssey through the history of ‘moola’ will turn the light bulb on in most nine- to 13-year-olds’ heads, making them love or rather – hopefully – respect money.
That said, there is the ‘Horrible History’ element. The fiscal equivalent of shock and awe that is best summed up by the chapter titles. Here’s one for you: “Chapter Six – In which we find out how expensive it is to bite a man’s nose”. And the topic is not let down by the title. Put it this way, I would think twice about gnawing off a chap’s schnoz. When all is said and done, read this book. It is well worth the money.
How the World Really Works: Savings, Investments and Pensions, Kourtney Harper, Guy Fox/Willis Towers Watson, £4.99, ages 10-12
Beautifully illustrated by students of Snowfields Primary School in Bermondsey, London, this compact book is split into two sections: money and the rest, comprising savings, and investments and pensions. It is written in a friendly, familiar tone, clearly explaining the basics of the subject in uncomplicated sentences. As the author says, “money cannot buy happiness. But it can buy the things you need to survive and it can also pay for the treats that will help you enjoy your life.”
This book would suit older primary and younger secondary school pupils, offering an easily digestible introduction to such abstracts as compound interest, and it succeeds in being engaging enough to hold the attention of children and adults alike. Examples of how we’d all get on without money work well, especially the pages on bartering for example, which could make a good classroom lesson – who knew ‘currency’ comes from the Latin for ‘speeding’ because it helped with the buying and selling process?
Lottery Boy, Michael Byrne, Walker, £6.99, ages 12-16
You’ll need to buckle your seatbelt before reading this novel, as it screams along at a pace. This is the terrific and terrifying tale of a young homeless boy, Bully, who finds he has a jackpot Lottery ticket but, living a precarious life on the streets of London, is uncertain about what to do next.
Bully’s naivety swiftly gets him into trouble as word of the big win spreads to the capital’s greediest and most malevolent scumbags, all desperate to get their hands on the loot. Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist springs to mind.
Lottery Boy is crammed with quirky observations that you might not want to admit are amusing in polite society, but the average young teenager will enjoy. For example, Bully is critical of a beggar who sits at the bottom of a footbridge, as it makes more sense to beg at the top where the ‘zombies’, that’s office workers to you and me, slow down to catch their breath.
As the title of this novel suggests, this is about having a lot of cash, suddenly. It’s a rocket of a ride through the scary stratosphere of greenbacks.
This is effectively paying interest on interest. Interest is calculated not only on the initial sum borrowed (principal) or saved (see APR and AER) but also on the accumulated interest. The more frequently interest is added to the principal, the faster the principal grows and the higher the compound interest will be. Compound interest differs from “simple interest” in that simple interest is calculated solely as a percentage of the principal sum.