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Interview with Gary Foreman

Q. Please tell us a little about your background?
A. My whole working life has centered on getting the most for your money. Before starting The Dollar I was a purchasing manager and a financial planner. The combination is helpful in what I do now. I'm able to apply both business and personal techniques to help people solve their financial problems.

Q. What drew you to writing about kids and money / or money?
A. Back in the mid-90's (when I started) there wasn't much available that could help people get the most for their money. Everyone was consuming more and more. But no one seemed to be telling people that it was important to control debt and save more.

Q. Who introduced you to saving and/or money and at what age?
A. My parents taught me from as far back as I can remember. They were both youngsters during the depression, so they lived simply and made a point of getting value for their purchases. They felt it was important to teach that to their children. So I always had a savings account. I learned to save up for a purchase. We didn't use credit. It was just a part of who we were.

Q. Do you have a favorite place or container to save change? If so, would you tell us a little about it?
A. Actually, I'm bad about it. I keep an old butter dish in my dresser drawer. When our kids were smaller I'd pay them 5% to roll the coins. I thought that would teach them a little math (how to calculate 5%) and that even coins were important to save.

Q. What do you think the biggest challenge parents face when it comes to teaching children about money?
A. The parents own lifestyle and lack of knowledge. You can't teach something that you don't understand or don't live. Telling your kids to watch their spending and save some money won't work when they see you buying every new electronic toy that comes out and agonizing over your credit card bills each month.

Q. What's your best tip for parents on teaching children about money?
A. Don't wait, start now. Often the younger the child is, the easier it is to teach them a new concept. Even preschoolers can learn that they can't have everything that they see or want. But, if you give them everything they want when they're toddlers, it's hard to explain to that teenager that you won't pay $100+ for sneakers just because 'everyone has a pair'.

Q. What's the biggest mistake you think parents make when it comes to teaching children about money?
A. Not realizing how important it is. Kids are getting almost no financial education in school. As soon as they reach age 18 they're deluged with offers of credit. A few youthful mistakes could make their financial life much harder. So don't assume that your kids know about money and credit. Teach them!

Q. Are you pro allowance? Briefly, why or why not?
A. Yes, because it's harder to teach kids about money if they never have any. We told our kids that their job was to do well in school and that chores were just a part of life as a family. So their allowance wasn't tied to performance at school or home. We used the allowance to teach them how to decide what they could (or couldn't) afford and how to save for things they wanted. They also learned what it was like to spend all your money and then go for awhile before you got more.

Q. At what age do you think credit card education should begin?
A. As early as possible. At first, it's really not about credit cards. It's more about saving and borrowing.

Q. At what age do you think parents should allow children to have a credit card?
A. That depends on the child. They shouldn't start with a credit card anyway. They should get a debit card at first. 16 is not too young to start. At that age they'll need a parent on the account with them. And that's good. It give the parent a chance to review statements with the teen and teach them about using plastic.

Q. If you could only give a child one piece of advice on money, what would it be?
A. Learn about compound interest. If you save money it's the best friend you have. But if you borrow money compound interest is a nasty enemy. Ben Franklin was teaching the same thing 250 years ago. It's still true today.

Q. What's your favorite family activity?
A. We really don't have one favorite activity. We enjoy a bunch of different things together. One thing that we all have in common is an interest in computers and the internet.

Q. What's your favorite money quote or saying?
A. Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Q. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
A. Teaching kids about money is much more difficult and much more important today than it was in the past. Managing your money, credit and credit rating isn't simple any more. It's hard to survive financially without understanding these things. And, an 18 year old can make mistakes that will haunt them for decades if they don't know how to manage their finances. If you want your kids to have a happy life, you can't let them grow up and not teach them about money.

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