SOS Children’s Villages: Canada – Money Matters and Children

SOS Children’s Villages: Canada – Money Matters and Children

New Jersey financial adviser, Jorie Johnson, profiled today by the Wall Street Journal, says no one is too young to learn the basics of good finance. Ms. Johnson teaches good financial habits to children in primary school.

A certified financial planner, Ms. Johnson found that in her experience many peoples’ poor financial habits are learned in childhood.

As such, children should learn the importance of setting both long-term and short-term goals, remembering the need to save and budget. Parents can influence their children’s perspectives on money, for instance, by continuing to give them money beyond their regular allowance simply because they spent all they had.

Children need to know that there is no such thing as a never-ending supply of money – bringing to mind the old adage, “money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Ms. Johnson also teaches the basics of investment. She tells her students that it is a good idea to invest in companies they understand, to avoid the pitfalls of investing in companies about who’s operations they know little about.

Teaching children about financial systems and good money management is undoubtedly important. Yet, despite the growing interest and advice on the subject, guides for parent on teaching their children about finance tend not to emphasize ethical choices.

In a recently published article, The Atlantic warns that the homo economicus (economic man) is “a functional psychopath” willing to “lie, cheat, steal, even murder, whenever it serves his material interests – a man (or woman) who can be seen in economic and corporate arenas. Thankfully, the article goes on, most of us are “prosocial,” willing to sacrifice some personal gain to avoid hurting others and follow ethical rules.

But, in order to make these small sacrifices so that our counterparts in other areas of the world can enjoy their human rights, we have to do our research – research beyond what companies merely appeal to us.

To illustrate, Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child, writes in her new book, Damned Nations, “All but two provincial teachers’ pension funds are invested in one or more of the world’s top one hundred arms producers.” The Canada Pension Plan is invested in 24, despite Canada’s engineering of the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997!

In Dr. Nutt’s words, “we are consumers of war.”

Still, prosocial behaviour is evidenced in increasingly popular socially responsible investments (SRIs). SRIs invest in companies with good human rights and sustainability records while eschewing companies producing tobacco or weapons, or using child labour.

According to the report, Canadian Socially Responsible Investment Review 2010, Canadian assets invested according to socially responsible guidelines totaled $530.9 billion as of June 2010. SRI funds have also been on the rise over the past 15 years, though they remain a “niche market”.

According to the UK-based charity, Stewardship, as per their website, “Children have never had so much disposable income… We all have a responsibility to model a right attitude to money. That’s why we link here teaching children with the tricky issue of the ethical use of money.”

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