A host of brochures are spread out on my desk. I'm looking for just the right gift for the Grands. One of my favorites: Give a Goat, courtesy Oxfam. Would or would they not be charmed by giving children in another--and less developed--part of the world a cute cuddly animal that could also support and feed them and their family?
The goat wasn't the only child-appealing possibility. Another charity was offering to send a heifer in my Grand's name to a child in a third world country.
My Grands are among the very fortunates of this world who have almost everything they need, want or could dream of. I thought they would be intrigued with the story of how the animals would become part of a family--and help them understand how life is lived in other parts of the world.
Turns out, I am part of a burgeoning trend: using gifts as a means of opening our Grand's eyes to the world--especially to the needs of those who live in economies that are not as fruitful as ours. It is also in keeping with a story that ran recently in the New York Times about grandparents giving their grandchildren the gift of financial awareness.
The NYTimes story was about a more sophisticated concept--teaching the grandkids about financial literacy. Most grandparents, the article argues, have an advantage over parents: They can talk more freely with their grandchildren and, in return, their grandchildren tend to open up to them.
So how do you do it? If you don't want to read the full story, here are the how-to highlights:
One grandparent gave his grandchildren “money savvy pigs,” which were created to show children the four uses of money: save, spend, donate and invest. He asked them to divide their allowances into the four categories and then talked to them about their decisions. Eventually, he introduced the idea of giving away some of the money in the donate bank by introducing his grandkids to various catalogues and brochures for helping people in developing countries--such as a flock of chickens, mosquito nets or vocational training. When one of his Grands didn't have enough money to buy what she wanted to donate--a latrine for a neighborhood that didn't have clean water--the grandfather suggested she write to family members who might want to donate to her cause.
A less formal approach might be to start a conversation about the difference between a need and a want. Or, create a financial memory bank by talking about how you [the grandparent] struggled or failed, what your first car or house cost and the like.
The main point to remember is to clear what you're doing with the parents. Ultimately, it’s up to your grown kids to be involved in teaching their children about money. What we, the grandparents, can do is strengthen their message--which, presumably, they learned from us in the first place.