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Interview with Steve Rosen
Columnist, Editor

Q. Please tell us a little about your background?
A. I'm 51 and a native of Omaha, Nebraska, the home of Warren Buffett. I knew nothing about the stock market sultan in those days. However, one of my high school classmates was Howard Buffett, one of Warren's sons. Funny thing, Howard was the business manager of my high school paper; I was the sports editor. Telling, I guess. From high school, I attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism; I graduated in 1977 and worked on a Gannett newspaper for one year outside Pittsburgh, Pa. Joined the Kansas City Star in August 1978 as a business writer, and have been here ever since. I guess I was uniquely qualified to work as a business reporter, that is, I knew nothing about it. But I learned on the job, eventually becoming the deputy business editor, the job I hold today. I am specifically in charge of our Sunday business and personal finance section called MoneyWise.

Q. What drew you to writing about kids and money?
A. Three kids and an interest in personal finance. I figured I could come up with enough column ideas just off of the goings-on in my own household. I've been writing the weekly column since May 2000, and have yet to miss a week. Not Cal Ripken proportions, but steady. It's been nationally syndicated by Tribune Media Services for more than three years. I guess I'm the only writer in the country with a regular weekly column about kids and money.

Q. Who introduced you to saving and/or money and at what age?
A. My father was my greatest influence - opening my bank account and introducing me to the bank president. I was probably no more than 10 years old Other than that, when I was seven, I started collecting baseball cards  -- which is really how I learned about buying, selling, bartering, saving and wants and needs. I still have my cards - don't think I'd sell them even if I were down to my last George Washington.

Q. Do you have a favorite place or container to save change? If so, would you tell us a little about it?
A. I empty my pockets every night and all the loose change goes into a big glass jar in my closet. When the jar fills to the top, I take it to the bank, and the money is spent on family vacations. My record so far is $400 in loose change. Paid for a few dinners and souvenirs.

Q. What do you think the biggest challenge parents face when it comes to teaching children about money?
A. Having the conversation. I think many parents don't know where to begin, or are not comfortable or confident enough about managing money, so they shy away from discussing it. Much like having the sex-ed conversation. The longer you postpone talking to your kids about saving and spending and the like, the harder it become to broach the topic.

Q. What's your best tip for parents on teaching children about money?
A.  Look for everyday opportunities to talk about money, whether it's watching a tv commercial, shopping for a toy, doling out a few bucks after your child washes the minivan. These are all teachable moments. Secondly, put your kids on an allowance.

Q. What's the biggest mistake you think parents make when it comes to teaching children about money?
A. I guess it would have to be caving in to their constant demands. In other words, not being able to say 'No," which is really a lesson about delayed gratification that is not being taught.

Q. Are you pro allowance? Briefly, why or why not?
A. Allowance is a good thing. It puts money in your kids' hands, and makes them responsible for spending and savings decisions. Start it early, as soon as your kids are old enough to recognize differences in coins and things they want.

Q. At what age do you think credit card education should begin?
A. Middle school. Why? At that age, many kids, especially if they have a frequent flyer number, start getting credit card solicitations. Plus, in middle school, kids still seem willing to listen to their parents. Credit cards are not evil if you learn early to handle them wisely. That's the key, many young adults never learn when to use or not use plastic.  

Q. At what age do you think parents should allow children to have a credit card?
A. Don't be in a hurry to issue the plastic. If they can wait until after college, all the better. That gives them plenty of time to develop good budgeting and spending habits with cold hard cash.

Q. If you could only give a child one piece of advice on money, what would it be?
A. Start saving early - and often.

Q. What's your favorite family activity?
A. Sporting events are big in our household - playing and watching. I'd have to say attending Royals baseball games, especially when they play the Yankees (I'm a longtime loyal New York fan).

Q. What's your favorite money quote or saying?
A. Good question. How about "Money doesn't grow on trees."  That's the standard.

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