2006-06-08 / Family

Camp teaches financial smarts

By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

NEVER  TOO SOON-Right, kids  can  get  a  head  start  on money  management  while having fun at The Money Camp. NEVER TOO SOON-Right, kids can get a head start on money management while having fun at The Money Camp. Anyone can be a millionaire by the time they're 40 if they start early enough, believes Judy Powell of Thousand Oaks.

To help youth ages 10 and up get a head start on budgeting, saving, investing and f i n a n c i n g c o l l e g e , Powell runs a local summer p r o g r a m , The Money Camp, in Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Simi Valley.

"I always thought young people need to know money and nobody teaches them. Parents frequently don't know themselves," Powell said.

The weeklong program teaches campers the basic principles of attaining financial freedom using interactive games, activities, speakers and field trips. Students learn the difference between good debt, such as houses and cars, said Powell, and bad debt such as credit cards that carry high interest rates. Campers are taught the importance of paying off a credit card each month to avoid costly interest that can quickly add up.

"They're just wide-eyed when they see how credit cards work," Powell said. "Interest is not something you want to pay. You want interest coming in."

How to earn and make money is examined in scenarios that include being an employee, owning a business, investing in the stock market or buying real estate.

"We talk about paying yourself first when you receive a paycheck," Powell said. "If you don't take a percentage out and put it away, you won't save any money."

One way to set financial goals utilizes the jar concept. Powell advises campers to divide their money into jars: one for playing, one for emergencies, another for college, a fourth for charitable contributions and another to pay bills.

"They learn how to make a budget and figure out how much can go in each jar," Powell said. "It's powerful stuff."

Campers visit a local brokerage firm as well as a bank, where they hear about 529 college savings funds. They're also brought inside the bank's vault where $10,000 is placed into their hands.

"That one-inch stack of $100 bills looks like absolutely nothing," Powell said. "The kids are surprised by how small that amount actually is."

In a tour of The Oaks mall campers can speak with a business owner and learn about the mall operation. They also go shopping with Powell, who asks the youths to really consider the "piddly crap" they are buying.

"They learn how much and how often money slips through your pockets," Powell said. "They figure out quickly how to save money. Instead of asking for Nintendo or a bike, ask for money on birthdays and holidays."

Leading a children's program about developing good money habits seemed like a natural progression for Powell, who spent 15 years as the owner/principal of the private Carden School of Camarillo. After selling the school in 2 0 0 3 , Powell got into The M o n e y Camp with a partner, Gayle Lipp of Thousand Oaks, after seeing an ad for the program.

The Money Camp was established in 2002 in Santa Barbara by Elisabeth Donati, a dietician. Donati came up with the idea after reading "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki. The first camp had 39 children. Today the program has grown to more than 13 states, Canada and the United Kingdom. There are also programs for adults, including a teacher training course.

The Money Camp is a nonprofit organization that raises money through advertising on its website as well as through camp fees in order to provide training to camp coaches, additional programs and an online course.

The camp runs from July 10 to 14 at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura; from July 24 to 28 at Madera Elementary in Simi Valley; and from Aug. 7 to 11 at Juan Bautista de Anza Park in Calabasas.

For information, visit www.themoneycamp.com or call (805) 957-1024.

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