Activity Idea: Ask Your Grandparents About Money Lessons They Learned Growing Up

May 25, 2016
Activity, Budgeting, Savings, Teaching Strategies, Article, Writing assignment

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I came across this WSJ article last week “The Financial Lessons of a Depression-Era Baby,” which immediately made me think about an activity where students interview their grandparents to learn more about their upbringing and the money lessons they learned growing up. In this short article, Bud Hebeler, former Boeing president, chronicles the lessons he learned from his parents while growing up during the Depression. His recounting includes such nuggets as:

Dad recommended that we have an emergency reserve for cash. He said you can’t foresee everything. He was right. We have had many financial surprises over our life, including things from very expensive uninsured dental care to helping distressed relatives at a time when they had no income.

While we know that money can often be a taboo topic between parent and child, my sense is that skipping a generation might make it easier, especially under the guise of a school project. Have your students develop a list of questions and interview their grandparents about their relationship to money growing up. Questions might include:

  • Where did you grow up? How would you describe the neighborhood?
  • What lessons did your parents teach you about money?
  • What did they say vs. what did you observe?
  • Do you ever remember financial struggles growing up? What were they?
  • What do you wish you knew about money then that you know now?
  • What was your first job?

You can then have the students write an article (similar to the one that inspired this activity) from the perspective of their grandparent.


About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.