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Teaching Kids About Money With Yanely Espinal

Haley Paskalides  |  January 17, 2024

Yanely Espinal is teaching kids around the country the most important money lessons she wished she had learned young.

Was money something you learned about in school? We’re not talking about math classes like geometry or pre-calc, we’re talking about personal finance — the art of managing our dollars. While some of us were lucky enough to learn personal finance from our parents, an aunt, or another money-savvy family member, most of us never took a single personal finance class in school before we opened our first bank account.

This is a problem. And it’s thankfully one the world is trying to fix, by teaching kids about money. 

When we teach kids about money, we give them a leg up in understanding an increasingly complex financial landscape — and the education we give them can have a huge impact on not just our earnings, but also on how much we’re able to save for the future. 

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According to Next Gen Personal Finance as of this year, eighteen states guarantee some form of personal finance education before students graduate. More kids learning about money is a huge deal, because it brings the percentage of high schoolers guaranteed to take a personal finance course up to 40% in 2023, compared with just 16% in 2018

But what exactly are they teaching kids about money in these courses, given that diversifying an investment portfolio isn’t exactly applicable to 16-year-olds? They’re basically being taught how to make thoughtful financial decisions (ahem, not throwing all of their money into a viral crypto stock) and weighing the costs and benefits of those decisions for the short and long term. 

Yanely Espinal, author of Mind Your Money: Insightful Stories and Strategies to Help You Reach Your #MoneyGoals has made it her mission to teach kids about money, so they learn the lessons she didn’t learn — and so they make  smarter decisions about money when they’re out on their own. Espinal grew up one of nine siblings in a small apartment in Brooklyn where money was always tight. “I think those early experiences put this concept in my mind that like, ‘Oh, there’s never enough money. Dad never has enough. We never have enough,’” she says.

By the time Espinal was in college, she was racking up debt on her credit cards to keep up with appearances. “If people saw me in that outfit, I can’t wear it twice, and my nails, my hair, my makeup, and the shoes that I wore,” Espinal says “All of these superficial things that I never really sat to reflect on, ‘Am I using my money in a way that makes sense and that aligns with my values?’”

LISTEN: Teenagers And Money, More Powerful Than You’d Think

To dig herself out, she started reading books about money, and sharing what she learned on YouTube as MissBeHelpful. Now the Director of Educational Outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), she is teaching kids and teenagers around the country necessary lessons about budgeting and saving. Her number one piece of advice for parents who want to start talking to their kids about money? Keep the conversation neutral and don’t make it about the mistakes you made with your money. “Give them the information that they need to make informed choices. And talk about the things that are going to make your kids smarter and savvier with money by taking yourself out of the conversation,” Espinal says.

In Mailbag, we hear from a listener who’s mentoring a teenager on how to manage her finances and is looking for next steps. We also check in with someone who’s filing for divorce and wondering if now is the right time to start collecting Social Security. In our money tip of the week, the cost of ignoring your finances is steep (we’re talking $2,000 a year). If you’ve been dragging your feet on creating a budget that works for you, join us for our next session of FinanceFixx on January 23rd.  


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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