Jonathan Rosen wants kids to use money wisely. He’s so passionate about it, he created a nonprofit offering children free classes to become financially literate.
“I look around at what adults and kids know about money and they don’t’ get it,” said the Dunwoody resident who works as a financial planner. “We see it all the time in people who make a lot of money and spend it all. We see it in lottery winners who are bankrupt five years later, and the reason for all that is they don’t think about it the right way.”
And just like the money that Rosen would like to see grow in folks’ investment accounts, his Wealthy Habits classes, which take place at his office on Ashwood Parkway in Dunwoody, have grown since 2012 when 28 kids signed up. This year, some 800 children are participating, and Rosen wants that number to double next year.
“I’ve looked at all these different education programs, and I realize there’s something missing,” Rosen said. “If you want to effectuate behavioral change, you have to change the way someone thinks.”
So, rather than have the students memorize financial terms, regurgitate them and forget them shortly after, one of the exercises the students participate in is a jumping jacks game.
Their job is to do a number of jumping jacks, and then they get “paid” with tokens, which they then deposit into bags signifying whether they want to spend their leftover money on junk or assets. If they spend it on junk, the teacher then gives them some kind of emergency they have to pay for. With no money saved, they then get buried in credit card debt.
“They see the other students, they see their choices,” said Wealthy Habits Executive Director Tracy Tanner. “They see the students that buy the junk at the beginning, and the ones that didn’t, who say ‘I’m so glad I didn’t do that.’ It changes the way they start thinking about saving money.”
Taylor McClintock, 16, is a Wealthy Habits student. She admits that she’s in the two-day class because her mother made her take it, but says she’s learned concepts she had never been taught. “I’ve learned about assets, liabilities and budgeting,” she said.
And that’s just what Rosen wants her to think about.
He said one of his favorite moments happened when his foundation received a $500 check from the aunt of a student.
When he asked her why she donated the money, Rosen says she told him, “I want you to know this class changed this kid’s life. She had to write a poem about what made her different from other kids, and the poem was about how she buys assets instead of liabilities,and she saves.”
“And she’s 12,” Rosen added.
To learn more about the financial literacy classes for children, visit www.wealthyhabits.org.