The Fun Ratio


Contributed By: Ms. Money (a.k.a Julie Beckham, Financial Educator)


The Fun Ratio - Playing CardsIt’s hard enough to get your kids to brush their teeth, put away their clothes and do their homework, what’s the rush on getting them to learn about money?


Here’s the rush: Learning by example doesn’t seem be working for American parents.  We’re prone to debt, swipe more than we count change, and tend to want to shield our children from the stresses of making and saving money.


We all know habits learned early last a lifetime, but with some days feeling as if they last a lifetime, how can we, as parents, add another teachable moment to the day?


In the words of Mary Poppins (and couldn’t every parent use her around once in a while?) “Let’s make the job a game!”


Introducing the “Fun Ratio.” In Ron Leiber’s New York Times Bestseller, “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money,” the author talks about explaining the “Fun Ratio” to children as an example of a return on investment.


Anyone who can use the phrase “return on investment” in the same sentence as “fun” has my attention.


Leiber uses the “fun ratio” to get children to draw their own conclusions on whether a purchase is worth the cost. He uses the example of a $2 deck of cards. How many hours of fun could you have with a $2 deck of cards? As it turns out – a lot! I played a summer’s long Gin Rummy tournament with my 12-year old son – that’s 30 hours of card playing – and it only cost me about seven cents an hour and gave us invaluable memories! What a bargain!


Compare that to my nine-year old’s $80 hatching stuffed animal. This 2016 Christmas-craze gift (where some parents were paying more than $200 for a dream-come-true December 25th), takes about 20 minutes to begin hatching and about 40 minutes to hatch. For $80, you get about an hour of fun before the stuffed animal begins to collect dust on the shelf with the rest of his furry friends. $80 for an hour of fun doesn’t seem like a good return on an investment.


Applying this “fun ratio” to things you do as a family, and talking about it with your kids, can actually be, well, fun! Especially when your kids start making smart decisions for themselves.


I overheard my son talking about a weekend away he and his dad were planning over the summer. “We decided we would rent a bigger place so we could invite some friends. It may cost a little more money for the bigger place but I think it’s worth it because we will have more fun with friends, don’t you think, Mom?”


This is the “Fun Ratio” at work. And, yes, I think it’s worth it.


Julie BeckhamMs. Money (aka Blue Hills Banks Community Relations Manager and Financial Educator Julie Beckham) has been singing the tune to financial literacy for the last five years through the Blue Hills Bank Charitable Foundation sponsored musical, “Ms. Money & the Coins.” More than 40,000 elementary school students have learned to Save, Share and Spend with Ms. Money and the Blue Hills Bank Charitable Foundation’s outreach has expanded to programs for high school students and senior citizens. For more information about the Blue Hills Bank Charitable Foundation’s FREE financial literacy programs, contact Julie Beckham.