Before becoming "The Budgetnista," a personal finance coach who was featured on the most recent season of the Netflix hit "Queer Eye," Tiffany Aliche was a preschool teacher for 10 years.
"I taught in Newark where it was economically depressed," she says. "So the kids, sometimes they would ask me to buy them things, and I thought, 'How can I teach age-appropriate financial education for kids that are 3 or 4?'"
She started a penny-donating project: Students dropped their spare pennies in a water cooler all year. Then, at the end of the year, they counted how much they had accumulated and donated the sum.
"The kids found it really fun," she says. "They loved it."
When she became a personal finance coach, she wanted to create a resource anyone could find accessible and helpful. That's why she decided to write "Happy Birthday Mali More," a book for kids ages 3-7.
Here are two key takeaways.
"All the financial literacy books were very literal," Aliche says. She wanted to write a book that didn't feel like it was full of money lessons but still provided the building blocks of financial literacy.
"I found that if we want to teach a lesson, the best way is to tell a story," she says.
Video by Euralis Weekes
The book is about a young girl, Mali, who gets lots of gifts for her birthday. In her excitement about the presents, she forgets to spend time with those who gave them to her.
While the story doesn't require kids to add or subtract, it does help them practice other related skills. For example, the whole book rhymes. Aliche, who has a master's degree in education, says this is an important stepping stone toward helping kids learn to count.
"Rhyming is actually a pre-financial education lesson," Aliche says, because rhyming leads to rhythm. "If you ask any musician, music is math. That rhythm is the beginning of counting, and counting is the beginning of math."
When kids recite words in a rhythm, whether from a song or a book, they are often learning more than music: They're also practicing counting, matching, and patterning, according to Scholastic. So, if you want to start teaching your child about counting and numbers, you can do so indirectly through music or rhyming books.
When Aliche taught her preschoolers how to save pennies, an important part of the project was picking a worthy cause to which to donate the coins. Aliche wove the concept of giving into her book, as well, by having Mali give some of her presents away to her friends as she realizes she has more than she needs.
"I truly believe giving activates abundance," Aliche says.
Studies have shown that giving to charity makes you happier and healthier, and also that giving makes it more likely that you'll get something back yourself. Altruists are likely to be receive generosity from others down the line, according to a 2007 study.
"If you're fortunate to have enough [money], then part of your financial plan should be to help those who don't," Aliche says. "If everyone gave from the excess that they have, nobody would be in need."
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