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Grandparents rated top teachers when children learn about money

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Dear Readers: Forget the generation gap. When it comes to teaching about money, grandparents are right in sync with their grandkids.

Case in point: The second annual Stein Roe Young Investor Fund essay contest asked fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders, "Who in your life has been most influential in helping you learn about money and investing, and what have you learned?" Of the nine winning entries, three from each grade, five cited a grandparent (the other four: a mom, an uncle, a teacher - and a radio talk-show host).As a contest judge, I know that this year's winners, who share a total of $25,500 in Stein Roe Young Investor Fund shares, had stiff competition from a group of entries that were financially savvy, literate and downright clever. Some excerpts from the winners:

- Caleb Caudell, 11, Springville, Ind.: "My Great-Grandma Mary believes that a person should save money to buy what he wants rather than use credit. Grandma Mary also understands investing in stock because her husband retired from the United Telephone Company after working there for 40 years. It did quite well and today has become Sprint. Grandma Mary has taught me that if you have a good, quality product that people want to own, investing is a way to make money and not lose it to inflation."

- Hillary Vervalin, 10, Highlands Ranch, Colo.: "My grandpa, Robert Ferriter, has a favorite expression: `Spend some, save some, give some.' Even with just a small amount of money, if some is saved, it will grow and grow. If some is given, it will grow, too, by the good it can do for someone who needs help. My grandpa says that's a way of investing, too."

- Matthew Holm, 11, New Lenox, Ill.: "My Grandma Marie taught me a big lesson about money and investing. Grandma Marie loves bingo. She spends about $25 per week, and has been playing for 40 years. I calculated that an investment of $25 per week for 40 years would produce $347,686.21 at 8 percent per year. When I told Grandma how much she could have today had she invested the money, she said, `You can't put a dollar amount on the enjoyment I've had over the past 40 years playing bingo.' I love Grandma!"

- Jeff Brandt, 12, Plymouth, Mich.: "A mutual fund is like a soccer team. If one player doesn't do well, the rest of the team is there to make up for it. When I was 4 years old, my daddy died of cancer. But he left us a life insurance policy. My mom put the money into mutual funds. My mom has taught me all that I know about investing."