The Boston Globe

Alot of youngsters don't know much about money.

That's a fact supported by a number of national
surveys, as well as by the experience of countless
parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other adults
with kids in their lives.

For seven years, a mutual fund has been trying to do
something about that, by aiming to teach young people
about money while making investing fun.

The Stein Roe Young Investor fund buys shares in
companies whose products kids are familiar with,
including Mattel, Apple Computer, and Disney. It sends
out a quarterly "Dollar Digest" newsletter, with the
latest issue featuring the article "Bearing the Market
Downturn" and a cartoon of a bull and bear dressed as
Wall Street traders.

Now the fund is inviting students to compete in its
sixth annual Young Investor Essay Contest, with prizes
totaling $34,000 in fund shares.

Students in grades 5 through 8 must write an essay of
about 250 words, answering the questions: What are the
most important lessons you have learned about money
and investing? How do you think this knowledge will
help you in the future?

Students in grades 9 through 12 have to write an essay
addressing someone they consider a successful
investor, and three rules you believe every investor
should follow. A contest entry form is available by
calling 1-800-403-5437 or at,, or www The
deadline is Dec. 31.

Despite the contest and other educational efforts, the
fund doesn't necessarily teach everything there is to
know about investing or personal finance. Nor does it
own only kid-friendly stocks.

Does the average young investor know what Household
International is, one of the fund's top 10 holdings
according to the latest information on Stein Roe's Web

It's a financial services company that was ordered by
regulators this year to refund more than $1.5 million
in excess charges for so- called subprime mortgages.
Last year Household International agreed to pay $12.5
million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it
and H&R Block of misleading customers who used Rapid
Refunds, or refund anticipation loans that can cost
the equivalent of triple-digit annual interest.

What's more, does the average adult who opens a
custodial account for a minor through the Stein Roe
Young Investor fund know the potential financial
consequences of this kind of account, such as the
possible impact on the child's college financial aid
and the ability of the kids to use the money however
they want once they reach adulthood?

Nonetheless, the fund has about 220,000 shareholders,
mainly in custodial accounts for minors, with total
net assets of about $1.2 billion. There's another
version of the fund, the Liberty Young Investor fund,
which is sold through financial advisers who receive a

The lesson here is while it's worth teaching
youngsters about money, it's also worth teaching them
the value of a critical mind and of checking out a
variety of sources for information.

Football season's back, and the social fallout in the
form of football widows or widowers is nothing
compared with that of problem sports gambling.

In fact, football season is the reason the independent
National Endowment for Financial Education has issued
a warning to families about the financial havoc that
can come from out-of-control sports betting and other
forms of gambling.

"It doesn't matter if the gambler bets on sports,
slots, bingo, the lottery, or the stock market.
Problem gamblers are more likely to lose their jobs
and their homes, fall into debt or bankruptcy, and run
up legal fees due to divorce and criminal activities.
For the loved ones of a problem gambler, the financial
consequences can be devastating," said William L.
Anthes, president of the nonprofit foundation based in
Englewood, Colo.

The foundation and the nonprofit National Council on
Problem Gambling in Washington, D.C., offer these
suggestions to help families cope with the financial
strain, especially if the gambler denies the problem:

- Have your own money and credit. Don't own credit
cards or bank accounts jointly.

- Open a separate safe deposit box. Store valuables,
such as jewelry, that the gambler might pawn or sell
for cash.

- Throw away credit card and loan offers that come in
the mail. To help stop offers from arriving, call

- Refuse to cosign for loans or other financial