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On Sesame Street, money lessons start early. Just ask Elmo!

Betsy Wagner
Senior Producer

Want to learn the basics about money and money management? Forget Wall Street. Take a stroll down Sesame Street.

Sesame Street is about to celebrate a very big birthday: Next month, the series that revolutionized children’s television and brought us Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo is turning 50. Or, as Sesame Street says, 50 “and counting.”

“It’s incredible,” Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop Senior Vice President of U.S. Social Impact, told Yahoo Finance’s Jen Rogers in the latest episode of My 3 Cents. “We have three generations: Parents are watching it with their children, grandparents, and of course all new children along the way.”

Sesame Street celebrates its 50th anniversary on November 10, 2019

In honor of the 50th anniversary, Yahoo Finance visited the offices of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the series, to talk about the valuable lessons the show has taught children (and adults) about money.

Start Early

Before age five, children’s brains grows faster than at any other time in their lives. So as you’re teaching your child the ABCs, start laying a foundation for financial literacy. “Money is something that, believe it or not, we need to start [teaching] early,” says Betancourt.

It’s more than just counting

Sure, it’s important to introduce children to coins and dollars. (Sesame Street play money here.) But, to be fiscally responsible someday, kids also need to learn how to control their impulses, how to decide what’s important to them, and how to wait. “Appreciating the value of things and making choices are foundational not only for life skills, but especially for future financial sort of awareness and planning,” said Betancourt.

Make it visible

Today, because of credit cards, Venmo and other cashless programs, children don’t see adults paying for things with good old-fashioned cash. So talk to your kids about what you’re doing: “It's a different time,” said Betancourt. “So If you’re purchasing something and you're using your phone, then do it with your child and show this is how we're using our money.”

Save, Spend, Share

Dive into your recycling bin and pull out three jars: one for saving, one for spending and one for sharing. (Sesame Street jar labels here.) Elmo’s favorite jar to dip into? The one for sharing:

“It is important to share, Elmo said. “Elmo likes to share with his friends because it makes them very happy.”

For more resources (including videos and activity books), visit Sesame Street’s Finances for Kids.

My Three Cents with Jen Rogers is a weekly interview series that explores celebrities’ history with — and relationship to — money. Find it exclusively on Yahoo Finance.

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