As the founder of Moolah U, a summer camp program for kids, Gayle Reaume is educating future generations, one dollar at a time.

by Gayle Reaume
It all started 12 years ago with a question from my young daughter Evan: “Why do we need money? Why isn’t everything free?” After several feeble attempts to introduce complex economic concepts, I realized her questions couldn’t be easily answered, so I went looking for a class or after-school club where she could learn about money. There literally was nothing that addressed the basic principles of building financial stability, like investing, putting your money to work for you and avoiding the earn-and-spend cycle.

I believe Moolah U found me. It was shocking to consider the next generation wouldnít know how to manage their personal finances. I became determined to fill that void, not only for my own daughter, but for other young people as well. Thatís when I started a money club at Evanís school through which we created fun experiences with money, including setting up a bubble-gum business at Shady Grove. Then we invented the weeklong pop-up business camp. In 2009, we were featured in a Wall Street Journal story on innovative learning programs, and the momentum was underway.

Moolah U was born and I was suddenly an entrepreneur! The concept attracted an impressive team of innovative education leaders and business experts who helped grow our little project from two camps in our first season to more than 30 camps per summer and programs forming in other cities. This year, we will surpass 3,000 kids served by Moolah U. The reward in this entrepreneurial journey is seeing our original campers as young adults, building lives of contribution and meaning rather than being stuck in the earn-and-spend cycle.

While camp gives kids a great experience and understanding of money, the real learning comes ìon the courtî at home. As a parent, I know money is a difficult subject to address. Iíve had parents tell
me they would rather have the conversation about sex with their kids than money.

The first thing to realize is that life skills are learned through experience, not taught. No amount of telling kids about money has them understand the truth about it until they experience it for themselves.

Too often, as parents, we miss opportunities to give kids the practice they need for them to realize that mistakes are the path to proficiency. Give them responsibility to manage some of their own financial choices and, through their experiences, they form their own empowering ideas about money.

What is naturally next for us is to support parents in creating the dramatic results we see with our young people in camp. How can parents have these conversations and demonstrate good financial responsibility themselves? We have created our online parent program, Your Kids and Money, providing simple step-by-step guides to raising money-smart kids.

Arming the next generation with the skills necessary to go out into the world as independent young adults and accomplish whatever they choose is a huge goal and the mission that drives me every day.

The most precious part of this journey for me is the relationshipópartnership, reallyówith my daughter Evan. The company was born out of her curiosity and she has been involved every step of the way. Now, at age 22, she is proudly using her experience to support others as a Moolah U stakeholder and guiding light in the development of the company.

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined myself creating this education, but itís a beautiful example of entrepreneurial thinking: seeing problems as opportunities to create something magnificent.


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