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Goal setting, saving, inflation, and diversification are the four key and most basic components of finance, says Stuart L. Ritter, a financial planner at T. Rowe Price Investment Services. According to Ritter, there are opportunities to hone your kids' brains for budgeting in everyday real life too.
-- Get your tween used to looking at prices the right way by using the "price per unit" amount displayed on grocery store shelves, and challenge him to find a better deal than the one you've found.
-- Give your kids a budget. Have them write down exactly how much they spend on Starbucks, clothes shopping, fast food, and meals out with friends in one week -- grand total is almost guaranteed to surprise them.
-- When your teen requests big-ticket items like an iPod, show her how to work toward a goal. Based on her allowance, figure out the amount of money she should set aside each week, and calculate how long it will take her to have enough for the purchase.
-- If your kids want cell phones, first ask them to research phones and plans, and make them responsible for at least part of the monthly bill. The most effective way to get them to become more selective about add-ons to their service is to require them to fork up the cash.
Online teaching tool: TheGreatPiggyBankAdventure.com is a free interactive online game aimed at 8- to 14-year olds that teaches lessons about investing and personal-finance management -- and also happens to be fun! Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online teamed up with T. Rowe Price to design the virtual board, which is set in a mythical three-dimensional world.