I recently read an admonition that financial illiteracy is the paramount economic crisis today. I never had a class about managing finances or understanding the intricacies of how our economy functions. So I'm not surprised so many today remain in the dark on their finances.

You'd think such a critical subject would be mandatory curriculum alongside English, history, math and science since it applies directly to everyone's very survival.

With that in mind, I appreciated the recent article by Certified Financial Educator Steve Siebold in which he addressed this shortcoming with suggestions for parents during this pandemic that finds so many kids at home. Siebold says it's an ideal time for Mom and Dad to yank Junior away from the video games and teach their children about money.

I've known plenty of good and overly generous people who wound up in deep financial trouble simply by overextending their credit cards or being careless about the financial obligations they incur.

Siebold, author of the book, "How Money Works: Stop Being a Sucker," said now is the time for parents to teach their children and likely save them possible grief as they become adults. "We can't rely on our education system," he explained, saying one of the best ways to begin is to tie allowance to completing chores so kids can begin to understand the connection between value and earnings.

He reiterated what I've witnessed for years about how so many people misuse debt and wind up trapped deep in the merciless muck from which so many cannot escape, short of bankruptcy.

Siebold offered the following suggestions.

Teach children about managing their money from objective daily reality. "It's a nice thought to say everyone, regardless of financial status, has access to all the good things in life. It's also naïve and untrue."

Wealth naturally offers privileges; $10,000 brings more opportunity and choice than will $100. The sooner kids realize that, the more likely they will be to do something about it for their futures.

Guide them in how to make money work for them and teach them that "money is a dynamic medium of exchange for goods and services that should circulate and grow." For instance, the average dollar spent in a community turns over an average of seven times before leaving a community, meaning every dollar spent actually has the local purchasing power of seven.

Teach that earning money is something to look forward to and "to look at it from a consciousness of freedom, possibility and abundance," rather than be frightened by it.

Having money certainly doesn't make one a better person. Far from it. It simply gives you more opportunities in life.

This indeterminate period of being covid-homebound offers the ideal opportunity for parents to mentor their kids on the crucial nature and function of our economy and on wise saving and spending.

Among other economic topics, kids could learn about the facts behind budgeting, compound interest, the potentially devastating misuse of credit cards, the definition and significance of bonds, and operation of Wall Street and stock markets.

"Financial illiteracy is the No. 1 economic crisis in the world, impacting more than five billion people across the planet," said Siebold. "Don't let your children become part of this statistic. Be a responsible parent and teach your kids how to avoid the cycle of endless debt, unnecessary spending and financial cluelessness.

"Teach them to take control of their financial future. The earlier they are when they learn about money, the more prepared they'll be and the more success they will have with money. With this extra time on their hands, there's never been a better time than right now to do it. "

A lingering regret I harbor from my collegiate years at UCA is never having taken an economics course. I could have gained a lot from a basic economic understanding at age 21.

Instead, here I am writing about what a positive idea it is for parents to use this opportunity to encourage the coming generation, that soon enough will find themselves in the throes of a subject that underlies all we do and share, to best benefit.

We can do better

As a result of the pandemic, child malnutrition and food insecurity in Arkansas is worsening. Not only is obesity a complication with this virus, it's also a leading medical disqualifier for military service.

Our state leaders need to work aggressively and rapidly to address the following numbers from the 2020 report "Breaking Point: Child Malnutrition Imperils America's National Security" that describe the sad story.

Nationwide, 71 percent of Americans ages 17-24 are ineligible for military service, 31 percent because of obesity; in Arkansas, it's 74 percent. In the state, 37.4 percent of adults and 16.2 percent of children ages 10-17 are considered obese. And we have the third highest rate of childhood food insecurity at 23.2 percent.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.