Secret life of money: a kid's guide to cash

Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash by K. Vermond

Vermond, Kira. The Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash. Illus. Clayton Hanmer. Toronto: Owl Kids, 2012. Print.

As a kid, I learned about money early from a banker father, an entrepreneurial great-aunt, a compulsory grade 9 consumer education class, and high school elective in economics. This book amalgamates all those types of sources in a great introduction for kids, parents, and adults alike.

It is written in a breezy style with clever phrasing, illustrations, variation in presentation format, and is peppered with quotes from the likes of Groucho Marx, ABBA, and Maya Angelou. Although written by a Canadian with many Canadian examples, there is a distinct American flavour in the spelling (ex. paycheck vs. paycheque), green colour scheme, and choice of pithy quotations.

Three main themes emerge: what is money, how to get it, and how to keep and grow it. The chapter on the history and nature of money has some great examples of “wacky” forms of cash used throughout history. There is, however, little if anything about world currencies today.

Vermond confronts the many problems with the expectations or hopes of “free” money (ex. lottery winnings, stealing, counterfeiting, scams and frauds) and guides the reader towards developing good long-term habits, realistic wage and salary expectations, and the importance of ongoing learning about saving and growing money through investing and compound interest. For example, few of us will make millions as CEOs or sports stars so benchmarks such as $7.25 per hour as a busboy or $45,000 as a firefighter are more realistic. The examples of how kids can earn money seem a bit standard (ex. mow lawns, babysit, paper route, deliver goods to old people) but I suppose opportunities for youth don’t change much.

There is lots of discussion on how to keep your hard-earned money including smart spending, the pros and cons of credit as well as references to interesting research in behavioural economics, advertising shenanigans, and the cost of being cool.

I especially appreciate the author’s willingness to tackle social justice issues. She introduces some research on the social value of various careers (ex. advertising managers ‘waste’ $17 for every dollar they earn while hospital cleaners ‘create’ $15). There is also coverage of microcredit, societal costs of poverty, causes of the gaps between rich and broke countries, unintended consequences of donating old clothing to charity, consumerism vs. consumption, and even the notion that salary satisfaction is all relative.

The overall message seems to be that media-inspired dreams of mansions and pools are unrealistic so hard work and life-long learning about money is required. Fortunately, work also contributes to our overall life-satisfaction.

Recommended:  3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: David Sulz

David is a Public Services Librarian at University of Alberta and liaison librarian to Economics, Religious Studies, and Social Work. He has university studies in Library Studies, History, Elementary Education, Japanese, and Economics; he formerly taught in schools and museums. His interests include physical activity, music, home improvements, and above all, things Japanese.