the money godmother

My Story:
Joanne Seymour Kuster
A.K.A "The Money Godmother"

Joanne approaches financial education from the perspective of a concerned mother. Unable to find age-appropriate materials to use with her own children, she drew upon her education in consumer economics and journalism to research and write her own. Soon, other parents, teachers, and home schoolers were requesting her ideas and materials. Today, Joanne is a leader in financial education with her materials in hundreds of schools and thousands of homes. She is shown here at Book Expo America in New York, holding two of her children's' books on exhibit.

My journey into financial education started before I was a teenager. As the oldest child in a large family, I had a ringside seat when my parents made financial decisions. My parents taught us to be frugal and resourceful. We were encouraged to get part-time jobs when we turned 14. My mother taught us how to cook, garden, sew and have fun in the process. Mom made finding the best coupons a game. We also learned to stash extra cash in savings and toss a few coins into the collection basket on Sunday. And, we took pride in doing both.

This early money education - while informal - was a big influence on my financial education philosophy. I know first-hand the importance of starting early when it comes to teaching children about money. Listening to my parents discuss wants and needs taught me about priorities, making choices, and delayed gratification. The resourcefulness and can-do attitude learned during my childhood gave me confidence to be an entrepreneur as a young adult. And, finally, I benefited enormously from a routine saving and investing mentality.

At the time, I didn't realize
my parents were teaching me the skills and behaviors needed later in life - perhaps the greatest legacy of all.

Financial Education From A Mom's Viewpoint.

As my own children grew, I sought resources and ideas to help me teach important money and business lessons. While there are many good books for adults, few appealed to kids. Fewer yet were written to help parents teach their children about money, investing and business. And so, true to my entrepreneurial attitude and background, I went to work researching and writing my own materials.

My first realization was parents need a basic plan - a template to organize this important work. Relax, I am NOT suggesting a 3-ring binder of stuff you will never use. What parents want is a simple process for gathering and communicating knowledge, teaching skills and instilling good money behaviors and habits. That has evolved into our "Save Yourself" Financial Education Platform for Families.

My approach features the three legs of financial education -
knowledge, skills and behaviors. The behavior element - the part where children learn good habits, the rewards of saving and investing, joys of sharing, etc. - is often ignored. That is why, I believe, so many young adults understand the mathematics of money, but lack the discipline to do what they know they should be doing financially. That's also why parents need to be involved. Parents can ensure their children are exposed to all three legs of the stool - knowledge, skills and behaviors/habits.

There is no magic formula to achieve financial success. Frankly, it requires work and patience. But, if you
follow my simple "Save Yourself" platform, the odds your children will become money-savvy adults are greatly increased.

Why the Money Godmother Label?

You remember the story of the fairy godmother who mentored Cinderella? That encouragement, along with a dose of wisdom from a mentor, helped Cinderella find confidence and happiness. My role as The Money Godmother is much the provide information, insights, encouragement and confidence in the financial world. I try to do that through my Money Godmother Blog and my newsletter. Go to:


What Else Do I Do?

Today, I spend most of my business time as a financial educator, content provider and consultant. This includes running seminars, giving speeches, visiting classrooms, writing books, and developing games. I also serve on several national and regional financial education initiatives, such as
Money Smart Week, the JumpStart Coalition, and community foundations.

My entrepreneurial husband, Chuck, and I also run a 35-year-old marketing communications company, which specializes in new business launches. In addition, we own
DynaMinds Publishing, a company that publishes financial education support materials ranging from books, comics and graphic novels to other custom items like cardboard piggy banks, journals and perpetual calendars. We also have equity positions in several startup companies.

Ben Franklin recently toured Iowa classrooms with me as part of Money Smart Week, a program of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. That's me with Ben and a middle school student holding the "Be Money Smart" comic book. Ben's visits were a fantastic way to raise financial awareness in schools, and the comic book has been a big hit, too. The program is an excellent example of how, with a bit of work and creativity, you can get children excited about money management.