Economists look to Tri-State's kids to handle money better than their grownup counterparts have

CINCINNATI – The fight to raise a generation of money-wise children begins with $20 magnets clips, $5 tissue-paper flowers and $30 sparkle sticks – three-inch vials filled with colored water and sequins.

Those handmade items were some of the hot commodities being bought and sold with "school bucks" during a frenetic two-hour open market in a sprawling University of Cincinnati gym. About 700 third through fifth graders alternated roles as buyers, sellers and advertisers to learn some basics about supply and demand, marketing and, above all, the value of money.

The fun is part of a serious effort to reverse the Tri-State's disturbing lack of financial smarts – having the knowledge to make good decisions from saying no to a pair of expensive basketball shoes to a ruinous mortgage unlike so many who lost their homes after the 2008 housing crash. That year, housing prices plunged, leaving many homebuyers owing more than their homes were worth, often with sky-high interest rates after introductory low rates expired.

Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana rank near the bottom of the United States in financial literacy, according to a 2013 study  conducted by FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors.

Thursday's Market Madness, organized by UC's Economics Center, was the culmination of the center's year-long Student Enterprise Program at 12 Cincinnati Public and 15 other Tri-State schools that was rife with important lessons for thriving financially.

Insiders can read more about how schools are teaching kids the value of money.

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