SANDY — Mountain America Credit Union gave kids the chance to learn and earn during an event designed to teach them the ABCs of money management.
On Wednesday, the Mountain America Expo Center was transformed into the area's financial playground for the second annual Kids Cash Fair. Part of Mountain America’s Financial Success Series, the half-day event featured over 900 participants ranging from 3 to 12 years old, all engaging in activities designed to help children develop a healthy relationship with money and sound financial principles, explained Todd Rasmussen, vice president of financial education at Mountain America Credit Union.
A 2018 Purdue University study found that while kids establish a number of financial habits by age 7, they can grasp basic money concepts as early as age 3, he said. With only 16% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 26 years feeling optimistic about their financial future, becoming educated early on is critical for long-term financial success, he added.
He said the fair helps kids learn how to recognize currency, earn money through chores and make smart financial decisions, along with recognizing needs versus wants.
"We all want lots of things, but most of us have limited resources," he said. "Distinguishing between wants and needs can be a great way to help our kids really be prepared to be successful in the future."
He said the event and its programming are meant to augment what kids may already learn at home and in the classroom.
Distinguishing between wants and needs can be a great way to help our kids really be prepared to be successful in the future.
–Todd Rasmussen, Mountain America Credit Union
"No one is going to teach your kids about what's valuable like your parents, so we're trying to encourage parents to take the lead and set that great foundation for kids while they're young and then let the schools and educators … supplement that," Rasmussen said.
Sandy resident Jeanette Leon, 32, brought her young sons to the cash fair to get them exposed to concepts like money and spending.
"These activities will help them see how you earn money, then later on to spend it," she said. "There are a lot of different ways (to teach them), you just have to learn what works best for your kids."
She noted that in her youth, she wasn't exposed to good money habits and struggled to manage her finances growing up, but her goal with her children is to teach them early so they don't repeat the same mistakes she made.
"There are pitfalls and things that can happen with your finances, so (I'm) trying to teach them earlier," she said. Educating her kids on the benefits of saving is one of the key goals she has, Leon said, in addition to learning how to plan for the future.
"At this stage, they just want to earn it and spend it," she said. "Teaching them that if they do want something in the future and to save is a bit of a challenge."
One of the big concerns for her family is teaching them the difference between needs and wants, especially as they become teenagers.
"They all want certain things, but (I'm) trying to make them understand that you don't need it right now," she explained. "Maybe for Christmas or a birthday. That's where their challenges are."
Her oldest son, Christian Leon, 12, said the activities at the fair helped him understand the importance of saving and spending wisely.
"Being here, we actually experience it and we understand it," he said.
For soon-to-be sixth-grader Aiden Leon, 11, learning about money is a brand new experience — one that can be very valuable. He hoped to use lessons learned at the fair to save for a new bicycle.
"I got some money for my birthday so I'm just saving it right now," he said. "We already know what to do, but if we're starting to learn at this age, we can understand it more in the future and have fewer problems."