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Sending your kids to a money camp

Hello, Muddah. Hello, Fadduh. Here I am at Camp High Finance. Camp is very entertaining. And they say we'll have some fun when the stock market goes up.

To learn about money isn't one of the traditional reasons most people send their kids to camp, but these days it could be one of the best.

Having "the talk" about money is harder for many parents than having the talk about you-know-what. Who wants to sound like Scrooge? And besides, most of us are pretty self-conscious about the subject and get tongue-tied when the conversation turns to what we earn and what we owe.

So why not let the kids spend a few summer days learning the facts of life about managing and investing money from somebody who can lay it on the line without dredging up family issues that could quickly cloud a sunny day?

Will the kids like Camp Money?

"I doubt it. It sounds like an adult agenda to me," says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and an expert on parent-child relationships.

Fulfilling a need
Nevertheless, the concept of a money camp is growing in popularity. While it probably won't displace swimming as the most popular camp activity, finance is on the agenda more and more often.

More than 600 kids ages 10 to 18 will attend The Money Camp this summer in its original location in Santa Barbara, Calif., as well as at locations in Calgary, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Mexico City and North Carolina. Executive director Elisabeth Donati, a dietician and exercise expert, was inspired after she read Robert Kiyosaki's book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." The camp has expanded every year for the last five.

Kids need this kind of camp more than they need traditional camps, Donati says. "They already know how to swim, but they don't know anything about passive income, leverage, the real estate business or the stock market."

The day camps cost about $260 per week for the first child in a family. Campers study basic economics, budgeting, how the stock market works and how to run a small business.

"We use accelerated teaching techniques, so the kids aren't bored," Donati says. "It's very fun, and every year it gets more fun."

In Texas, financial planner Sherry Rhoades is introducing Millionaire Kids Camp this summer. It's a two-day program for $300. Children ages 8 to 11 will do role playing, learning things like sales and handling money. A program for kids 12 and older will concentrate on teaching the value of money in preparation for buying a car and going to college.

Get 'em while they're young
"Being a financial planner, I've worked with people for many years. It's frustrating to me that so many of them don't have basic knowledge. At their age, it's hard to change their habits after they have developed problems with credit. I decided that teaching kids when they are young is the only way to go," says Rhoades.

Next: "That's what this is all about, giving other people a leg up."
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