Writing Assignment: Write A Letter To A Friend/Sibling/Parent To Give Financial Advice

Dec 16, 2015
Activity, Index Funds, Investing, Teaching Strategies, Parent Conversations, Tips for Teachers, Writing assignment

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I got this activity idea from this Kiplinger article.  In the article, the writer describes a letter he wrote to his 20-something son to explain investing.  His son found it helpful so the writer decided to share it with a broader audience.  Here is an excerpt:

Build a solid base. For longer-term money, such as money in your 401(k) plan or IRA, you can afford to take risks in the stock market. Stick with mutual funds, which let you diversify or spread your risk.

The best funds to start out with, in my opinion, are index funds, which try to match a particular benchmark, such as Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index or a total stock market index. Another benefit of index funds: They have very low fees.

An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, is a kind of index fund. ETFs are popular because their fees are even lower than those of index mutual funds, and you can trade them throughout the day like stocks. We’ve compiled our favorite ETFs into the Kiplinger ETF 20.

OK, I know that letter writing seems a bit old-fashioned to the younger generation, but the process of putting pen to paper (or tapping keys on a keyboard) forces writers to organize their thoughts, use easy-to-understand language and prioritize what they deem to be most important.

As I thought more about the benefit of using letter writing as an activity to close out a unit, I remembered that Amazon uses 6 page memos (no, I am not suggesting a six page letter here) to structure their meetings (from Jeff Bezos in Fortune):

Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”

I think letter writing requires that same clear thinking and being able to explain key concepts in layman’s terms demonstrates true understanding.  So, give it a try as a capstone project at the end of your unit and send me some examples!




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.