August 18, 2017

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When life gives you lemons, make investments

Nine-year-old entrepreneur earns praise as powerful example of early financial literacy

SUPPLIED</p><p>Carlie Weinreb, 9, holds up homemade stress balls she sells along with lemonade.</p>

SUPPLIED

Carlie Weinreb, 9, holds up homemade stress balls she sells along with lemonade.

Carlie Weinreb likes to supplement her income with a few little side gigs during the summer — weather permitting.

On hot days in Toronto, the nine-year-old girl often sets up a lemonade stand, selling refreshments (the lemonade, of course) and a little stress relief (homemade stress balls).

Those sales add up, bolstering her purchasing power over and above the $5-a-week allowance she gets from her dad in exchange for performing chores around the house.

In this respect, Carlie may not be all that different from most kids her age — except that when it comes to financial literacy, she is indeed exceptional.

For example: Carlie can calculate in her head the sales tax on items she finds in the store and not for just her home province. She knows the sales tax rate for every province — and for all 50 U.S. states, too. She also knows the income tax brackets. Moreover, Carlie can easily banter about investment strategies at a level that might go over the heads of people five times her age.

All this fiscal know-how has not gone without recognition.

She’s been featured in newspapers — such as this one — and on TV, including the Steve Harvey show. She has her own website and a book deal is in the works.

Even the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada recently recognized Carlie’s efforts, singling her out as a financial literacy leader for other Canadian children.

And that is perhaps her greatest impact and achievement — so far. Carlie is a potent example of the benefits of financial literacy and a role model for children and even parents.

In a world of rising consumer debt and increasingly challenging economic conditions, we could use a few more kids like Carlie.

Of course, she didn’t become a mini money maven on her own. Her father, Lorne Weinreb, has had a big hand in her early financial education.

So have frequent visits to the dollar store, she adds.

"I really like math, and I learned a lot from the Dollar Tree," she says.

Before each visit her dad would give her two or three dollars to spend as she pleased.

"She’d grab a bundle of goods and have to figure out the price at the cash register including tax, and if she got it correct, I’d give her an extra dollar," says Weinreb, an accountant.

"That’s how her passion for financial literacy developed, because she could associate it with something tangible."

The benefits of these kinds of experiences are profound and long-lasting, says a Winnipeg-based financial counsellor who advises consumers struggling with debt.

"The earlier it (financial education) starts, the more solid the foundation built for the child’s future when it comes to independent, financial decision making," says Sally Massey-Wiebe with Community Financial Counselling Services.

Teaching "financial literacy at home in consistent and age-appropriate ways lets kids know money is not a taboo topic."

We could probably have a few more lessons about money taking place around the kitchen table considering Statistics Canada’s Financial Capability Survey from 2014 found 60 per cent of those surveyed indicated they had fair or poor financial literacy.

While it is now increasingly taught in the classroom, financial education is far from standardized. That’s why Massey-Wiebe argues it is so important that learning starts at home — even if parents feel they may not be the best teachers.

"Our own experiences, shared appropriately — even those that were of the ‘learning the hard way’ variety — can be beneficial and engaging for our kids," she says. "As parents we have to face the fact that we are teaching our kids about money whether we are making a point of it or not."

Carlie’s father says it’s not being knowledgeable about finance that helps the most. Rather it’s taking the time to create teachable moments for your children.

"Sometimes, as parents, we’re in a rush and don’t want to slow down to let our children do things," Weinreb says, adding he would let Carlie stand in line on her own at the bank when she was five years old.

"She would do the transaction on her own: deposit $10 into her account or withdraw $5."

His and her efforts have paid off.

Fast-forward four years and Carlie is again at the bank — only this time meeting with TD investment specialist Gibril Sallah.

"I told the adviser I was a moderate investor — that means I wanted some money in savings, some in fixed income and some in stocks: 10 per cent cash, 40 per cent bonds and bond funds and then 50 per cent in equities, like ETFs (exchange traded funds) and mutual funds," Carlie says.

"I don’t have a job so I don’t make a lot of money."

Unsurprisingly, Sallah was very surprised.

"I was just astonished by the first thing she asked of me, which was ‘I want you to show me an investment that’s going to generate between six to eight per cent over a 10-year period,’" he says.

"I’m like ‘Wow’ — a girl this young asking such technical and complex questions really triggers your thinking, so I asked her what she was saving for, and this surprised me even more."

Carlie is saving for a house with a pool.

And the way she’s going about it, hosting pool parties in the not-so-distant future is a real possibility.

In the meantime, when she’s not selling lemonade, attending summer camp and doing all those other normal pre-tween activities, Carlie will continue giving talks for university students and others on the likes of taxation and the benefits of saving in a TFSA over an RRSP.

Indeed this little golden girl is one-of-a-kind.

But her father says any child can follow in her footsteps.

Parents just have to set the course.

"It’s all about engaging them," Weinreb says. "When you make kids the decision-makers, they’re going to be interested."

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