Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Money Night Talk

Rebuilding from our financial crisis, the importance of good financial education is becoming more widely embraced. I often wonder how we got to this dismal state of financial wherewithal in the first place. Logically, we shouldn’t struggle with money as much as we do. It would make sense that tried and true behaviors were taught and carried through the generations.

Unfortunately discussions regarding money are often taboo or only superficial at best. In my book Wealth Is a Choice, Principal 16 is titled appropriately - Share the Wealth of Experiences (good and bad). I believe, as probably most of us do, that we have much to share and learn from others in order to make better decisions with money. We just need to do it (share) effectively.

Jean Chatzky, financial journalist and JumpStart member, is hosting a National Money Night Talk for Thursday September 16th leading the way for parents and children to talk about money. She’s encouraging everyone to go to for helpful videos, material and dialogue starters. The information is age specific, having a “Tips for the Talk” section with great resources for middle school, high school and college.

I spoke with Jean about the event and she is genuine in her effort to increase the financial education around the country. She personally wrote the material herself, and will be reviewing the welcomed feedback at Her latest book, Not Your Parents’ Money Book, was largely written through her discussions and experiences with students. She’ll be using and sharing the information learned tomorrow night to help improve future events. So please be sure to share your thoughts and ideas with her. Teachers can use the opportunity as an excellent homework assignment.

Financial security is important, and especially to Michigander’s as we have more to recover from than much of the rest of the country. Let’s show the country how much we value financial education by visiting the site on Thursday September 15th and committing to having more open financial discussions with our children or parents.


James Studinger
Vice Chair –
Author – Wealth Is a Choice

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From Rug Rats to Riches: Feed the Future Millionaire...

Click Here to watch Fox video

Many who make good decisions with their money were somehow influenced at a younger age. Parents can foster future millionaires, or miss the opportunity and run a greater risk of developing long term dependents.

I spoke to Lee Rogers, a fellow member in the Michigan JumpStart Coalition, a non-profit charged with bringing financial education to our youth. “Most kids aren’t learning what they need to in order to succeed financially in life, and parents are missing a perfect opportunity to help them learn”.

The summer break is an ideal time to help your children establish lifelong financial habits.

One of the best methods is to lead by example
Take your kids shopping and talk with them about why you stick to a budget. Compare prices, and demonstrate how to find bargains. Tell the importance of investing, and the power of starting early. Show them how you invest for retirement. Talk about college costs. If you are helping with their education and are investing into a 529 plan, show them how it works and what you might expect to get from it.

Use the Lemonade Stand and other entrepreneurial endeavors as a teaching moment
On my way home yesterday I saw a lemonade stand destined for losses. Yes, lemonade stands are born on the basis of profit. You take a very low cost ingredient, mix it into water, and fill it in a cup for a huge profit margin.

Rather than the typical folding card table with a scribbled picture taped to the front, this stand looked like a miniature street market vendor. Cute, but is it necessary? I went on-line when I got home, and that model cost upwards of $200. That takes a heck of a lot of glasses of lemonade to make a profit.

No matter how small the entrepreneurial endeavor your child might partake this summer, use it as a first rate lesson on making a profit. I’d even recommend going so far as to collect some of their earnings as cost of good sold, or even rent for equipment. It doesn’t have to be much, but it helps identify natural business processes.

Give children incentives to save their money
Steve uses an incentive similar to company 401k matching. “I match any portion of their earnings that they put into the bank account. Once in the bank, it’s deemed as long term money, to be used for college years. One child utilizes the match more than the other, but it gets them to save more than they would otherwise”. Some parents impose a mandatory savings rate between 20% and 40%.

Use allowance or chores to teach work ethics and financial reward
Some parents give an allowance as building a family unit, where they all share in the work and they all share in the bounty. I like to also offer opportunities for special jobs or home projects. You can pay children equally for a job well done, and other times pay them separately based on how much each child did. It shows them that there are different ways to get paid, demonstrating the advantage of a concerted team approach or individual commission.

Teach them the value of property, and the cost of replacing it
Joan told me a story about her son who ruined the flowers in her front garden. “I made him go to his piggy bank and take the money out to replace all the flowers. He hasn’t played in my flowers again.”

They are not too young to start investing
Jonathan explained how he gets his kids to appreciate investing. “I encourage them to invest their earnings into a Roth IRA, and then I give them some spending money in return. If investing in stocks, make it interesting or you’ll lose them. If they are into technology and games, look for stocks in that field. Compare a few different companies and decide which one makes the most sense.”

Instead of giving money as a gift for his kids or their friends, he gives stock. “I had my first brokerage account at age 13, you can’t start too early.”

James Studinger is the owner of JPStudinger Group, a Financial Advisor firm in Bloomfield Hills MI and author of Wealth Is a Choice and Vice Chair of the Michigan JumpStart Coalition. He offers securities and investment advisory services through NFP Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. NFP Securities, Inc. is not affiliated with JPStudinger Group. email to 248-643-6550

Friday, April 16, 2010

Step In with the Current of Financial Education!

I’m from the U.P. and love to trout fish. As a young boy, I learned how to navigate my way through rivers where much larger men were pushed underwater. My dad taught me how to use the current as a key catalyst to help me get to where I was going, while others dismissed the current as important or even tried to fight it.

The current for financial literacy is definitely flowing, and gaining speed. We have Money Smart Week, National Financial Capability Challenge, Obama’s Declaration for April 2010 to be Financial Literacy Month, and now Michigan House Representatives have declared April to be Youth Financial Literacy Month (summarized below).

River currents alone won’t catch fish, but they can help to take you to the place where fish are. We can use the financial currents to bring awareness and real improvements in others lives, helping financial education become mainstream.

House Resolution No. 246 - Youth Financial Literacy Month - was sponsored by Michigan House Representatives Scripps, Bolger, Robert Jones, Kandrevas, LeBlanc, Liss, Lund, Mayes, Neumann, Rogers, Tlaib and Valentine.

To summarize from the bill, it encourages the informed use of credit and other financial products and services to beneift individuals and business for a better future. It recognizes that when these sklls are learned early, it will encourage personal responsibility and the ability for all income levels to achieve more in life. It recognizes the difficulties of the past decade financially for many people. Our youth are our greatest assets, and at the core to the solution is through increased financial education so that our youth are better prepared to succeed.

As stated in the resolution, it ...encourages all citizens to participate in the aims and goals of this effort by raising public awareness about the need for increased financial literacy in our schools and among our children.

Step in the water and use the currents in your job or organization to help further the cause of all your hard and important work.

I learned early on that it’s much easier to catch fish when your head is above water!

James Studinger
Vice Chair – Michigan JumpStart Coalition
Author of Wealth Is a Choice

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Hero's of 2009

The Hero's of 2009

The curtains are closing on a rather auspicious year as 2009 shrugged off early January warnings of global collapse and disaster. We now gratefully welcome the New Year that abounds with new opportunities, accompanied with a healthy dose of relief. Having dodged the bullet, but for how long it is unclear.

Year end TV brings year end reviews of world events. This, being the end of a decade, brings ten years of accomplishments and follies. Maybe it’s our infatuation with drama and the extreme, but the shows are filled with scandals, corruption, cheating and abuse.

If it were not for pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing his plane safely on the Hudson, some shows would have found nothing to offset their crisis ridden commentary.

Was it the case in the year 2009 that the world was run amuck with villians and far too few prime time heros?

Maybe. But if the hero’s have not emerged as television individuals, they are growing as communities, families, non-profits, and citizens of our nation stand up and take ownership in our country.

With a force as powerful as freedom, this massive wave of grass roots heros could tip the scales toward long term prosperity. Perhaps sparing us from the havoc many yet warn is inevidible.

But it will take an effort no less impressive than the will of the people to get us back on track.

And if individual responsibility is born out of the disgust of what 2009 and preceding years had to offer, then we can look back on this year as a catalyst and a great one indeed.

Working together, we can carry the momentum into 2010 and bring financial literacy to schools throughout the state!

Have the Happiest of New Years!

James Studinger

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Obvious Answer to Our Economic Crisis

In the midst of the country's economic meltdown, I cannot think of a better subject to teach children and youth than personal finance education! It amazes me how the MI Jumpstart Coalition has to beg the MI Department of Education and the Legislators to make this a mandatory class for every student. How could this possibly be in question when during the winter of 2009, the average score of Michigan high school seniors on the National Jumpstart Student Survey ( was only 54%? Isn't it yet understood that the recent financial crisis was caused largely by lack of financial education? Therefore isn't it obvious that the cure is in us providing financial education?

I was not offered a single course in personal finance during my K-12 public education, or throughout the pursuit of my master's degree at my public institution here in MI. I thank God that my parents taught me the value of money and how to save. What about the majority that do not get that privilege? Today's crisis is evidence of the problems created! Our society is living the ramifications of this void, while leaders are still debating if they can fit this course into a students education.

If budget constraints might be a concern in making this decision, the MI Jumpstart Coalition ( would like to inform school officials that the National Jumpstart Coalition has a Clearinghouse with tons of free and low cost curriculum and resources that will meet state standards. Let's give personal finance a try and watch the next generation succeed, rather than have the negative debt ratio like has occurred in today's U.S. population.

When we put our teenager behind the wheel of a car, we make sure that they complete a training course. How about we steer our children straight by requiring they all know how to operate their personal finances, prior to learning from society to spend more than they earn.

Lois Gibbons is the Chair for the Michigan JumpStart Coalition and Consultant/Educator with the Harmony Financial Network -

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blog - Financial Literacy Legislative Update October 2009

I spent sixteen years of my life in school learning, eventually molding my brain to be sufficiently competent to earn an honest living. The goal was to get out from under the comfort of mom and dad’s roof and start a life of my own. Would you believe that in all those 20,000 plus hours of classroom study, not to mention after school homework, only a handful of those hours dealt with how to be successful with my income?

The sales guy at Discover Card spent more time with me than that. Just an impressionable freshman in college, you can imagine the financial impact that had.

Does anyone else find that odd? That we allocate such a small amount of education to teaching our children how to thrive with money? Is it any wonder we find ourselves in such a state of financial despair?

In a town hall meeting with Representative Geiss (HB 4511) and Representative Sheltrown (HB 4410), I learned of their ongoing efforts to modify current high school graduation requirements. Sheltrown’s suggested overhaul would move financial literacy from “elective” status to the superior echelon of “requirement”. In doing so, financial literacy would finally become a standard class offered in most of the schools throughout the State.

JumpStart, diligent at bringing financial education to kids in Michigan, immersed in the legislative bills, met with government, legislators and their aides, and testified during a House Education Committee meeting.

We are seeing schools and students struggling under the MMC requirements. It appears many schools are limiting resources to the core graduation requirements over electives. One such tragedy is at Brighton Schools. Glenna Fritz may be teaching her last financial literacy class after years of empowering students as it appears they are shutting down the program.

Last week I went to Lansing to gather more information and visit Senators offices on the Education Committee. While making a case for financial literacy, I was told that they were hearing from many constituents on the subject. Every call, every letter, and every email you send to legislators and those making decisions on this help a great deal.

In despair, knowledge is the key to recovery. Our state has some of the highest unemployment, budget imbalances, and foreclosures all while the auto industry is cutting the umbilical cord of security. We need to remove the unknowns of managing life and money, and educate our students so that they can succeed in this economic reality they are graduating into.

I have not found anyone yet who disagrees. Let’s all keep working together to help make the vital subject of money become mainstream classroom study, improving lives for generations to come.

I welcome your comments and ideas on this post. Or, feel free to email me at

James Studinger
Author of Wealth Is a Choice
Vice Chair of the Michigan JumpStart Coalition

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Victory for Michigan's Children!

Congratulations Personal Finance supporters! Personal Finance Education is now a reality for MI Students!

What a historic time in our State! On Tuesday of this week, Senate Bill 834 passed with 100% support from our Legislators! This bill will allow for school districts to offer a one semester personal finance class to fulfill a math credit. Local districts can decide who will teach the course. What a long fought victory due to the efforts and hard work of a great team. Each of you has served as a support some how over the years and for those efforts I am truly grateful.

On May 6th the MI Jumpstart Coalition will serve a meal once again to Legislators in the State Capitol and begin crafting legislation to require each student in MI to take a personal finance course prior to graduation. This we hope will compliment the current legislation.

With your help, we have come a long way in four years. In October 2007, the State Board of Education voted for personal finance education to be integrated in K-12 courses. Now with this new legislation we are beginning to give more children an opportunity to become financially savvy. The road ahead is not easy, but we will be persistent in helping build a stronger future for our most valued resource – our children. After all it is time.

We are very pleased to even have the State Treasury now as our newest MI Jumpstart member. Together we will strengthen long term self sufficiency in Michigan. Many thanks again for your support. I encourage you to thank your Legislators for voting “Yes”. Many thanks again for helping craft a hopeful future for our children.

Lois Gibbons - President Michigan Jump$tart Coalition

Thursday, October 9, 2008

FEFE's September Newsletter

The Family Economics & Financial Education Project has many exciting opportunities it would like to share with you in the September newsletter. To download the newsletter, go to the FEFE Web site at, and click on the September newsletter link.

FEFE Master Teacher Program
« Do you want to become a FEFE Master Teacher? If you have attended a FEFE National Conference in Bozeman, MT or Tucson, AZ, you are eligible to apply! Download an application today at and return by December 1, 2008.

« Learn how the FEFE Master Teachers “Maximize the FEFE Curriculum.” Great resources FEFE has available have been featured!

Lesson plan and content updates:
« Check out hot topics about credit!
« The Values Auction Lesson Plan 1.17.4 has been updated. The directions and rubric for the values auction activity are now more clear and concise. Please be sure to go on the FEFE website and download the newest version!
« Coming soon: an updated Selecting a Credit Card lesson plan 1.4.1!

Save the Date:
« The 2009 FEFE National Training will be held June 15-18 in Tucson, AZ! The registration packet will be available in December.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The National Financial Literacy Challenge

The President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy is offering their second financial literacy challenge for high school students November 3rd-26th. For more information please visit Be sure to pass this information on to teachers, administrators, and others whom you feel might be interested.