155 Teaching Kids About Money with Paul Vasey

Jason and Paul discuss teaching kids about money.

Paul Vasey is a former teacher of Business Studies who left the UK and now lives in California. After teaching and talking about Business, he left the confines of the classroom to walk the walk. He wanted to put what he had learned from teaching students into practice to make a difference.

In his free time, he likes to spend time with his wife, walk, bodyboard, swim, golf, drink coffee by the beach and come up with various concepts that could be turned into reality.

To learn more visit www.cashcrunchgames.com

Below is the full transcript:

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Announcer: Welcome back, America, to Sound Retirement Radio, where we bring you concepts, ideas, and strategies designed to help you achieve clarity, confidence, and freedom as you prepare for and transition through retirement. And now, here is your host, Jason Parker.

Jason: America, welcome back to another round of Sound Retirement Radio. So glad to have you tuning in this morning. I’ve got a great guest for you. This is episode 155, and I’m gonna bring Paul Vasey onto the program in just a minute to talk about something really cool that I think you’re gonna be interested in. Before we get started though, as you know, I like to get the morning started right, and we do that a couple of ways around here.

The first one is to share a verse. This verse comes to us from Colossians 3:13. “Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.” Then, of course, if you’re gonna be visiting with the grandkids, I’ve got a joke for you to share. I know how much you guys love these jokes, so here’s my joke. Who is Santa’s favorite singer? Elf-is Presley.

Alright, with that, again, you’re listening to Sound Retirement Radio episode 155, if you’re driving down the road this morning in Seattle, find all these shows archived for your listening enjoyment at soundretirementradio.com or soundretirementplanning.com.

My guest this morning is Paul Vasey. Paul is a former teacher of business studies who left the UK and is now living in California. After teaching and talking about business, he left the confines of the classroom to walk the walk. He wanted to put what he had learned from teaching students into practice to make a difference. He noticed that there was a huge disconnect between money and math. In his free time, he likes to spend time with his wife, walk, body board, swim, golf, drink coffee on the beach, and come up with various concepts that could be turned into reality.

I met Paul recently, and we were talking about a game that he developed, so I wanted to bring him on to share with our listeners some more about the game. Paul, welcome to Sound Retirement Radio.

Paul: Good morning, sir. Thanks for having us here.

Jason: I’m excited to have you on the program. You know, we met, and you’re very personable. You’re easy to talk to, fun to talk to, but I was excited because you took a focus and approach towards wanting to educate kids, and doing it through a game. I was hoping maybe you could give us a little bit of a backstory on what you developed, why you developed it, and what you’re doing right now.

Paul: Sure. Yeah, it was good to talk to you at FinCon, actually. It was really nice to do that. So, I was a schoolteacher for 12 years in the UK, and I would teach business studies, where would we teach a two-year course; marketing, human resources, operations management, and finance. The kids would do really well at the marketing and the motivation and in human resources, but when we got to finance, they went, “I can’t do it.” I said, “What do you mean, you cannot do it?” They said, “Well, it’s math.” I thought, well, what’s the problem with math? We just can’t do it.

So I taught math for a year, because in schools, generally if you have a free period or something like that, or you have some qualities that you can teach a certain subject, sometimes you help out. So, I taught math for a year to some lower level students, and I realized that there was a huge disconnect between math, and it was to do with confidence.

So thinking about that, I was back in my business classroom, and I had some 16-17 year olds who were scared of math because it was breakeven, analysis, profit and loss, income and expense statements and all those kinds of things. I remember as a teacher, the one thing that I dreaded doing when we were going to teach for the first time, was actually teach math, simply because of the confidence in math. I thought, well, what’s a good way to overcome this? I remember playing Monopoly and Pay Day and all those kind of games. You play with a nine year old, Monopoly, they’re gonna eat you for breakfast. They’re not scared of anything.

So I thought about, then I thought, well, if you make someone an expert or something, you can’t shut them up. One way was, if you had them playing Monopoly or something like that, these kids are just handing money out and they’re not even thinking about it. So, that’s how I came up with games as a way of them think- You know, not even realizing what they’re doing, they’re enjoying the game, there’s no confidence required to play the game. They know that if they make a mistake, so what?

Jason: It’s a game.

Paul: Yeah, it’s a game. The thing is, people having fun, having a laugh around the table. I created one game, and the kids were making their own rules up on the fly. It was brilliant! They were [inaudible 00:04:54] trading, “I’ll do this, you do that.” These are the things that I hadn’t even thought about in the rules, but it just shows that these kids, they can handle money in the right context, under the right conditions. So that’s why I decided to make the games.

Jason: So, you mentioned a game like Monopoly, which as a kid I spent … I mean, me and my friends, we would have these marathon Monopoly games. We would set up Monopoly, and we would set it up in my friends dining room, and his mom would kind of … She would rope off the dining room so that nobody would mess with our game, and for hours and hours and hours we would get together and play Monopoly over long periods of time, and it was really a wonderful time. How are cash crunch games similar, and how are they different, to something like Monopoly?

Paul: Well, Monopoly is all about buying, and you’re given so much money, and you’re going out to buy property, and you get passive income, which is great. It’s a great function, if you think about life, where you’re running a salary, and you’ve got to spend your money, but you buying investment properties to make a passive return. Cash crunch is different in that we go one step before that. If you think of 50% of [inaudible 00:06:12] paycheck to paycheck, it’s scary, really. We focus on teaching kids to make the right decisions, so that they have money at the end of the month, so they’re not living paycheck to paycheck.

Do you have that milkshake, do you have water? Do you buy a logo T-shirt, one with an emblem on it, or not? There’s certain things that … Do you have a Starbucks macchiato or just have a straight coffee? There’s certain ways to save money, but the thing is, we focus on teaching the value of money. Now, if you learn the value of money, you will make smarter decisions, and we are teaching you to save first, spend later. So, you have less money-

Jason: Save first, spend later.

Paul: Yes. So, you have less money, but when you have less money, you naturally make smarter decisions. What we’ve done is we’ve taken 20% at the beginning away, so you only have 80% of the money for you to continue doing the same things. So, when you have less money, you’re more likely to make smarter decisions. Just like if we went to Disneyland and I gave you $100, but hang on, give me $20 back. You have $80 left. I can guarantee you’ll have just as good a time as if you have $100 in, but you’ll make smarter decisions in the gift store on the way out.

Jason: You said, trying to help kids understand the value of money. How do you get them to buy into that?

Paul: Well, in the game itself, there’s certain features where- They get $12 to start with, and then every week, they get a $2 allowance. But in the game, they receive money through being good or recycling or little jobs, helping the neighbor. But they’re bad, they’d have to pay money if they lost something, they haven’t done their homework or they’ve been naughty. But then they also have decision-making cards, where they have to- For example, do you want a milkshake for $1.50 or do you want water for free?

Now, because they’re paying with their own money, they now see the value with- “Uh-uh, I’m not having a milkshake.” Because we also- On the board, we have income cards, so we have our Moe Money, so it’s our checking account. We have Sammy Savers, which is our savings account, and we have a Debby Debt square, which is red and it’s our expense account. Every time they spend something, they put that money in the Debby Debt square. So they see how much money they’re going through over time, and the winner is the one with the highest amount of savings and checking, so your net worth.

So you can see these kids, in a competitive environment, they’re going, “Well no, I’m not having that because I don’t want to lose my money.” Because now you’ve got the ownership of their own money, they’re now learning the value of it.

Jason: See, I love this. I love it because I know … Especially for our audience, we’ve got a lot of people, Paul, who are getting ready to retire, and they’ve got grandchildren, and they want to leave a legacy, not just of money, but of stewardship, and how to teach them to be responsible and to value things like money. The fact that you’ve created a game that makes it fun, where everybody can sit around the table and just have a good time teaching these concepts, I really think it’s cool and I think our listeners are really gonna appreciate your perspective. What’s the right age to get kids playing this kind of game? How early can they be?

Paul: My game starts at seven years old, but to be honest, the sooner they learn the value of money, the better. Look, money habits don’t change, whether you’re seven or 17 or 70. You cannot spend more than you earn. That’s the simple principle, and if you figure that out and you figure out the value of a dollar, you can’t spend a dollar more than once, then you’re good to go. There are lots of products out there, for example, Sammy Rabbit Dream Big Club. He teaches kids from ages of three up, and he does it through song. You learned about the words that are saving, and you’re dancing around, it’s a big, big rabbit.

There’s a guy called Scott Alan Turner, who’s just brought a book out for FinCon, which is a reading bedtime storybook that they can actually read with the kids to learn about what the key terms are that you hear, what are [inaudible 00:10:57] and all those kind of things. Mine is seven to 12, because that’s the age, but to be honest, if you were an adult sitting with your child or a grandparent sitting with a grandkid at five years old or three years old, you could have them rolling the dice and moving the piece. You could ask them to count up the money. I mean, I would ask you, what’s the youngest age you could teach a kid to add up money? You know?

Jason: Yeah, that’s a great question, and our kids have been adding up money for a long time. I mean, that’s just part of what we do to include our kids in the finances of our family, is we have them- Because we do the old-fashioned cash in envelopes, so we’ll take our kids and we’ll have them put the cash in the envelopes so that they can see how much money is being allocated towards groceries or dining out or these other things. So teaching through modeling, not just what you say, but what you do, I think, is really an important component to helping kids understand money.

I have to tell you, some of my most fond memories of spending time with my grandparents were- Well, my great-grandpa, he taught me how to play cribbage. He didn’t even have a TV, so I remember when my parents dropped me off at his house for two nights, it was just he and I, and if we didn’t have a game to play, it got pretty quiet and pretty boring around there. So he taught me cribbage, and that was a lot of fun. He also happened to be the guy who gave me my first bible, which was kind of cool.

My other grandparents, I would go camping with them, and they liked to play cards. I just remember as a young boy, maybe 10 years old, beating my grandma at Gin Rummy, is that the-

Paul: Mm-hmm (affirmative), Gin Rummy.

Jason: Yeah, but she would just get so mad at this little 10 year old kid beating her. She was probably letting me win, now that I think about it, but … So, it’s just a fun way, through games, a fun way to spend time with your grandkids, but again, I’m just inspired by the fact that you’ve created a game that also teaches some principles. If people want to learn more about the games that you’re creating, where can they learn more about that?

Paul: On my website, cashcrunchgames.com. So cash as in money, crunch as in crushing something, so cashcrunchgames.com. We have a variety of games on there for you.

Jason: What’s the most important factor about money, in your opinion?

Paul: Learning the value of money. I think that is, the end of the day, is only the value, because if you know what the value of the dollar is, whether you go shopping, we’re always looking to get the best deal for our money, but also, can we look at alternatives for our money as well? Do we actually have to spend money? Are there other ways of doing stuff? So I would say that value of money is the most important thing, because if you get that, everything else falls into place.

Jason: How important would you say budgeting is, in terms of concepts or ideas to teach?

Paul: I think it’s very important, because you’re not only learning about what you have to spend, you’re also learning about discipline, in terms of, you can’t go over that amount. You’ve got to think about the amount of money you have to spend, and where the money has to go. If you do go over what you wanted to spend, you’re also learning on how to move money around so you’re not spending over your budget, you’re just taking less out somewhere else.

So it’s teaching you lots of different life skills, [inaudible 00:14:39] transferable problem solving, discipline, time-management, being able to add up all those kind of things. So yeah, I’d say budgeting is very important.

Jason: Paul, what’s the biggest mistake that you’ve ever made with money, if you could teach your kids one thing to not do, what would be the biggest mistake you ever made?

Paul: It’s your money, nobody else’s. Do not let anybody else spend your money for you. I actually went to college, and I saved so much money before I went to college. I went to college, and my roommate was there, and the next minute, “Oh, let’s go shopping!” Next minute he’s talking me into buying lots of clothing and everything else, and I’ve just totally blew through my savings, that I had for the term. So what I didn’t know was that this guy was a millionaire’s son, and the guy was getting allowance from his parents. I wasn’t. So he spent my money, without me realizing anything else.

So when it came to, “Oh, I’m going to go out.” Well, that’s your problem. Thanks a lot for that, and that’s what happened. So that was one of my things, was, it’s my money, you’re your own boss, don’t try and live with the Jones’s, and look out for you, because at the end of the day, when everyone goes home, it’s you left sitting in the room on your own.

Jason: Wow. At one point, you said 401K savings and all that other stuff is irrelevant. Why would you say that?

Paul: I would say that right now, because until you actually have the principles down, until you get away from living paycheck to paycheck, there’s no point telling me you could have a savings, you could have a 401K. I think you’ve gotta get one problem solved at a time, and I.e., making better money decisions so that you can join that club. I think that 401K isn’t all that. It’s almost like an exclusive club to some people, because they haven’t got the membership rights to jump into that club because they’ve not managed- They’re still living paycheck to paycheck, and their spending is out of control.

Jason: Do you think that if people earned more money, that they would have a better lifestyle?

Paul: No.

Jason: Why do you say that?

Paul: I say that because if you go back to the money habits, if I earn $10,000 and I’m living paycheck to paycheck and you give me $12,000 a month, what am I gonna do?

Jason: You’re gonna spend it.

Paul: All I’m gonna do- I’m gonna spend it. I’m just gonna pick up another bill, another gym membership. I’m gonna upgrade, going from maybe Ross’s or Banana Republic to Lacoste. I’m just gonna start spending more money in more expensive places. You haven’t got the fundamentals down. Now, if you asked me that question and I had my money principles sorted out, then I would say, “Well, potentially, yes. I will pay down my mortgage and I will be living debt-free and I would have less stresses of that.” But really, your quality of life will stay the same, because you know what the value of money is, you know who your friends are, you’re not trying to show off around other people. You’re happy with yourself.

Jason: I love it. I’ve seen this firsthand, Paul, that’s why I wanted to ask you the question. I know that making more money is what everybody’s first solution is to dealing with any financial problems that they’re having. They think that if they get a second job or get a higher-paying job, or if they go back to school, all of a sudden … If they just had a little bit more money, then everything would be okay, but like you said, if you’ve never learned the most basic principle, that you spend less than you make regardless of what that number is, regardless if you’re just starting out in life or getting ready to retire, there’s a price to be paid.

Our hope is that people aren’t gonna figure this out at 75 years old, because they spend too much and then run out of money in retirement because they never learned the principle, because they always were high-income earners. That’s a real risk. Once you retire, once your income goes away, that can happen. What’s been some of the best experiences you’ve had from developing these games? What’s been some of the really positive feedback that’s come to you as a result of getting kids playing physical games? These aren’t just online games, it can actually be a physical board. I like that- You showed me, you could take the game board and crunch it up and stick it in your pocket if you wanted to, which is kind of cool.

Paul: Right, right.

Jason: What are some of the positives you’ve heard from people?

Paul: Well, first of all, the physical board, people were actually enjoying the interaction. The fact that they were holding money, and you could see that they were counting, and the fact that when you’re counting wrong, maybe an older kid would say, “No, no, no, you’ve counted wrong, let’s count that together.” So there’s a lot of learning habits there. Also, when someone made a mistake, everyone- “Oh yeah, you’ve made that mistake.” But they’ve learned.

But also, there would’ve been a lot of a-ha moments with parents playing with their kids, because all of a sudden, the principle of saving first, spending later, making those decisions on … Just even buying a milkshake at the restaurant as opposed to drinking a glass of water, saves you money. So, there’s a lot of those things. Online, they’ve realized how quickly they blew through the money when they were buying everything. The fact that every action has a reaction and a consequence.

Jason: This morning, as I was talking with a friend of mine, he used the word entitlement. He said, he talks about a lot of kids that are growing up in conservative families, but it’s amazing to hear how people talk about socialism, for example, as they’re entitled to things like healthcare, or this idea that’s being floated around now about a universal paycheck, like you just get paid for being alive because robots are taking over. What do you hope your game will help from that sense? Does your game teach people that they’re entitled to these things, or does your game teach them that they have to work for the things that they want in life?

Paul: Oh, no. I mean, for example- You’ve got to work for life. You’ve gotta put your dues in, otherwise- I’ve been in boarding schools, I’ve been doing this. I’ve been teaching, and when you get little kids pushing to the front of the lunch cue because they’re entitled, because it’s their day to eat first. They don’t know their place in society. You’ve got to build, work your way up, just like a promotion. You start at the bottom and you work your way up, and you put your dues in and you learn and you get the experience.

My game- In the Junior version, if you have not put your clothes away, you have not put your shoes away, you have been caught lying, you’re not being helpful, these are things that are all penalized. We also have an area where … Tell somebody something nice about them- You know, tell the player across from you something nice about themselves. You know, so we’re teaching them empathy, we’re teaching them responsibility, and absolutely, entitlements not gonna get you anywhere. It’s just gonna lead to a big, big mess.

Jason: You’re an entrepreneur. What’s the- Because you’re out there creating value in people’s lives. You’re building games to help teach kids about money. What are some of the things that you’ve learned, just from your own walk into this world of entrepreneurship, coming from an academic background, where you’re teaching in a school, to now being an entrepreneur?

Paul: Well, in a school, my hours- I could tell you, to the hour, to the day, what I would be doing, where I would be, and what I- You know, I would be teaching business, I’d be teaching marketing. It’s like 10:15, it’s break time, and everything else. So straight away, there’s no structure. The second thing is that everybody works to a different timetable. So what I would do- I’m used to working quite quickly and doing three or four things at once, because that’s what you do in teaching.

So when you send an email, you’re almost like, “Come on, come on, I want your reply.” People have got other things to do, they don’t necessarily work. You’re not a focus of theirs, so things probably take two or three times longer, and probably double the cost, so that’s one issue. So one of the big, big lessons I’ve learned is how to be patient. You know, because you’re waiting, you’re doing- The other thing is not to be disheartened. A lot of times, people say no to you, and the cause is two reasons.

One, they’re not interested, or B, you’ve not got your message across properly. You can’t be disheartened by that. You can’t go, “Oh, my world is ending because I’ve done wrong.” You just have to get up and keep going, and I think that’s the difference with a lot of people.

Jason: Paul, with that, we’re out of time. I just want to remind our listeners, you’re listening to episode 155, Paul Vasey. He is the developer of Cash Crunch Games, you can find him online at cashcrunchgames. If you’re interested in teaching your kids or your grandkids about money, check it out! Paul, thank you so much for being a guest today.

Paul: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me, Jason.

Jason: Take care.

Announcer: Information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate and complete for general information only, and should not be construed as specific tax, legal, or financial advice for any individual, and does not constitute a solicitation for any securities or insurance products. Please consult with your financial professional before taking action on anything discussed in this program. Parker Financial, it’s representatives, or its affiliates have no liability for investment decisions or other actions taken or made by you based on the information provided in this program. All insurance related discussions are subject to the claims paying ability of the company. Investing involves risk. Jason Parker is the president of Parker Financial, an independent, fee-based wealth management firm located at 9057 Washington Avenue Northwest, Silverdale, Washington. For additional information, call 1-800-514-5046, or visit us online at soundretirementplanning.com.

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