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Learning money one panel at a time

Cover from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's comic, "Once Upon A Time." The bank has a series of educational comics to teach kids about managing their finances.

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: Maybe you got your first lessons in the properties of money from a piggy bank when you were a kid. And by the time you were a teenager, you had the whole credit/debit thing down pat.

These days, many teens and 20-somethings haven't a clue. The problem is so bad, the Fed Bank of New York is working on a remedy. Jaime Bedrin reports.


Jaime Bedrin: No one ever said that learning to balance a checkbook was easy. But kids today are so financially illiterate, experts say many of them they can't make change.

Neal Godfrey is the New York Times best-selling author of "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees," a guide for parents on kids and money. She says this year, 180,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 will declare bankruptcy. One of the reasons for this, she says, is that kids aren't taught about money's consequences.

Neal Godfrey: The next generation has to feel comfortable with money. And what's interesting is a lot of people get intimated by it. And the more kids learn when they're little, when you start learning about the market, when you start learning about investing and saving, you go, that's it? That's all there was?

Parents and teachers looking to fill this gap in financial education could pick up a book or DVD. Or they could go to the source: the Federal Reserve bank of New York.

The Fed is doing its best to appeal to young people. It's running gold vault tours that show billions of dollars of the shiny stuff. It's even got a line of comic books.

Lloyd Bromberg is the bank's director of education services:

Lloyd Bromberg: And the idea of coming up with a comic is a way that it seems to capture the attention both of educators and students, because it's different than anything they see usually get to see in school.

The comic books cover everything -- from savings to foreign trade. Last year, the Fed shipped out 850,000 of them around the country.

Bromberg: We feel if we can get to students through these comics, we might be doing a service to them as well as society.

The comics are popular, but they're old-school. More Archie, Betty and Veronica than Halo or High School Musical.

There's talk the bank might discontinue them. But Bromberg says he wants them to be more student and teacher-friendly. That could mean adapting the series to deal with web banking or e-commerce, to make the comics more relevant to modern kids.

They have to stay current if they're to meet the Fed's aim of introducing kids to money matters early. And helping them make wise choices with their own savings.

In New York, I'm Jaime Bedrin for Marketplace.

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