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The Toronto Sun's Profile on Explorer Hop

Original profile written by Liz Braun on February 9th, 2020.

BRAUN: Teaching kids financial literacy at money camp

Does money mystify you?

You’re not alone — but you don’t need to pass that confusion on to your children.

After 20 years of working in global corporate finance, Toronto parent Hasina Lookman now teaches kids financial literacy at camps and after-school programs.

Her popular programs can teach your children everything from the basics of budgeting to how to invest or run a business — and it’s all game-based, interactive learning that kids love.

Lookman’s classes have philanthropy built into them, too. Knowledge is power, and understanding money is a way for kids to improve their own lives, and the lives of others. She gives children a skill set they can use for life.

“How can anyone be successful if they can’t manage money?” says Lookman. “The education system teaches them to read and write from age six, but at what point are we teaching them about money?

“And money makes the world go around!”

Lookman began to understand the scope of the problem while still working as a financial consultant. What she calls her ‘aha!’ moment happened when she was training recent graduates from the University of Waterloo — and realized not one of them knew how to work within a budget.

Then came the day Lookman’s adolescent daughter — who knows how to manage money — complained about having to work for the things she wanted.

None of her friends had to do that, she said. They didn’t save, either.

“She told me, ‘It’s unfair!’ Everyone else’s parents just gave children the money for what they wanted. One of her friends got the iPhone she wanted just by asking. I realized this was a much bigger problem than I had thought.

“We’ve given our mistakes to a whole new generation.”

So began Explorer Hop, Lookman’s educational company.

(And yes, you’ll also find adult programs on the site.)

Lookman runs a variety of innovative camps and STEM programs; two particularly popular camps are Camp Millionaire, which teaches children about investment, and Young Entrepreneurs, where kids learn every aspect of how to start their own business.

Camp Millionaire, which is for ages 10-14, gives children a virtual portfolio, letting them invest $10,000 in virtual cash.

“They’re used to playing games, so we enter their world. This is a game now. This generation understands the concept of virtuality better than anyone.”

It’s a game, but the children deal with real stocks and real prices.

Young Entrepreneurs inspires kids to come up with innovative business ideas and teaches them how to get their business off the ground — raising money, marketing the business, selling their ideas. They take the lessons and apply them to an actual pop-up market.

“And they routinely make $800 and $900 over a two-hour sale,” says Lookman, who emphasizes that the children do all of it themselves.

Lookman has a particular interest in teaching girls about finance. She fears we’ve given girls an irrational fear of money.

“Why have we made it into such a taboo topic? … We keep saying, ‘Don’t tell anyone how much this costs,’ or ‘Don’t worry about money, daddy’s managing it,’ — and this is not the right approach to set girls up for success!”

Lookman has brought her programs into a few schools and is in conversation with other educators to get these lessons into every school in the province. It can’t happen fast enough.

Meanwhile, she can even teach your kids how to step off the careering carousel of consumerism. For example, Lookman teaches three questions to ask before making any purchase: Do I need it? Will I use it? Will I enjoy it?

Even one ‘no’ answer means: do not buy it! Another tip? Rather than buying something, take a picture of it.

“In your mind, that satisfies the whole concept of getting something,” says Lookman. “If you still want it a week later, you can go back and buy it then.

“Chances are, you won’t.”

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