The Analogy Blog - Using seeds to explain (nearly) everything about money
If you have ever read any of my blogs then you’ll know that I love to use analogies to help parents teach their kids about many different money topics. In this blog I thought I’d provide a summary of the different seed and tree analogies I have used over the last year.
I use analogies as money is traditionally a notoriously boring and abstract topic both for adults and children. I hope you find the analogies below useful and try them out with your kids. You’ll see from the video at the end, the analogies can really help kids learn and remember different money topics - especially given money isn’t taught in school.
It all starts with a seed …
This is so important as they will straight away realize that seeds can grow, just like money can. Parents need to proactively teach their kids this lesson otherwise they will spend their younger years thinking money is just for spending and then form strong spending habits which can be hard to change as they grow up.
Seeds = Money
They can give their seeds away (spend) or plant them (save). They can plant many different things, flowers, bushes or trees. Let’s find out what these all mean!
Delay their gratification with some Flowers
The first thing they can plant is a flower. Planting a flower can take a few weeks to grow but you have something really beautiful at the end of it. The flower is much more beautiful than the seed.
This is all about getting your kids to save up for something they want. If they take their time and save some of the money they receive, they will be able to buy themselves something much better than if they just gave away their seeds (money they were given).
All parents should be helping their kids delay their gratification as it can help in so many aspects of their life, not just money. If they learn to focus on the future rather than make impulse decisions they will be better off with regards to their school, work, relationships and money.
Compound interest using Bushes
Seeds can also grow into bushes. Think of bushes like the money they put into a bank or savings account. The key element is that bushes produce more seeds (Interest) which can be planted to grow more seeds.
This is teaching kids that they can save money to make money. Whilst this might take a long time, the longer they wait the greater and better the benefits. As whilst they might only have one bush producing seeds, over time those seeds grow into more bushes and then those bushes produce more seeds and so on and so on. This is the power of Compound Interest. As the saying goes “Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world … those that understand it benefit from it … those that don’t pay it”.
Younger kids will appreciate that whilst their savings might start small, over time they will have a whole forest. Here’s a story of a man named Jadav who grows his own forest and brings home the power of planting seeds over a long time.
Pretty much everything you need to know about investing using Trees
This is where the analogy gets really powerful (in my mind). These analogies can help both adults and children understand the key concepts of investing.
Any money that is invested in the stock market is like planting a tree (or a Blue Tree as I call them).
Over the long-term a seed can help grow a beautiful forest full of large Blue Trees. It just takes time to grow, you can’t expect a tree to grow overnight (it takes patience to invest)
Blue Trees are expected to grow much bigger than a bush (the expected return from investing is much higher than putting money in a savings account).
Like bushes, Blue Trees will produce seeds (dividends) which can be planted to grow more Blue Trees (compound interest).
If there is a storm then a Blue Tree can get damaged. This helps teach kids that there are times when their investments will get smaller. In this blog I use McDonald’s to help explain to my daughter the impact the Corona Virus had on the stock market, i.e. whilst in lockdown, less people ate McDonalds burgers so their stock price fell (there is short term risk from investing).
Given the risk of storms, it’s best to have your Blue Trees planted in different places to avoid all your Blue Trees being damaged by a single storm. This means that you shouldn’t just invest all your money in one place. It’s best to invest in lots of different companies and across different locations (diversification is a great way to manage risk). Learn more about different ways to invest here.
Planting your seeds in different places means that some of your trees could be exposed to the best weather conditions and grow rapidly (people don’t know which investments are going to do well, so best to invest in as many places as possible).
Even if your Blue Tree does get damaged in a storm, remember trees grow back. So many people mistakenly forget this point and end up chopping down their damaged tree. It’s important to let damaged Blue Trees grow back bigger and stronger. (the stock market falls but always recovers, don’t sell after there has been a storm).
During and after a storm, the ground is soft and great for planting more seeds (the best time to invest is when the market has fallen).
If you and your kids can think of investing like trees, you’ll avoid the mistakes that so many people make when investing. Many people plant their seeds in the same place and then chop down their trees after a storm. They then only start to replant their seeds once they see other trees growing, but by this time the ground is hard (i.e. they buy when the market is high). If you are new to investing then I would recommend reading this page and reading this book - both will help you gain the confidence to start investing.
The Money Birds that eat your seeds
The Money Birds are Tax. They come and take away some of your seeds which reduces how big your financial forest can grow. The money birds aren’t all bad. They take the seeds to help others (e.g. schools, roads, police and welfare).
It is possible to plant your seeds in places where there are no Money Birds. These include the ‘Hidden Blue Tree Forest’, i.e. your pension. Planting your seeds means that your forest can grow much larger as there are no Money Birds taking the seeds away, i.e they are tax-free.
To help teach your kids more about tax then please read this blog here.
The dangerous Red Trees (Debt)
When you borrow money (take out debt), the company you borrowed from will plant a red seed. Over time this red seed will grow into a Red Tree. Your job is to cut down the Red Tree before it gets too big. The danger is due to the fact that Red Trees grow so quickly. They grow much quicker than Blue Trees.
This helps your kids realize that debt means they could be paying a lot more than what they borrowed. It also gives them a sense that debt can be dangerous.
Read more on how to teach your kids about debt here.
The Purple Trees and the Red Bushes (Property and Mortgages)
A Purple Tree is a house you own. They are very big and people live in them (like Tree Houses).
Most Purple Trees are covered in Red Bushes. The Red Bushes are like Red Trees but don’t grow as fast. You still want to chop them down so you can see more of your beautiful Purple Tree.
Whilst there are dangers of having Red Bushes (like Red Trees), they do allow people to own a Purple Tree. Think of it as a bush that helps support your Purple Tree when it is first planted. Over time the Purple Tree becomes stronger so you don’t want the Red Bush anymore.
If you don’t live in the Purple Tree you own, then the seeds it produces (rent) can be used to help get rid of the Red Bushes and grow more Purple Trees.
Read more about how to teach your kids about debt in this blog here.
I hope you found these analogies useful / interesting:
Seeds - Money
Flowers - Save for something you want
Bushes - Savings (which attract compound interest)
Blue Trees - Investments
Money Birds - Tax
Dangerous Red Trees - Debt
Purple trees - Property (your tree house!)
Red Bushes - Mortgages (fortunately don't grow as fast as Red Trees!)
Try them out with your kids - see what they can remember. Here’s a video of my daughter recalling the different parts of a financial forest:
I also use Seeds, Flowers, Bushes and Blue Trees in our digital Piggy Bank tool - when kids receive money, they can decide where to plant their seeds and see their financial forest grow. Given many adults today are struggling as they don’t have a single tree or bush, we need to make sure the next generation is financially ready for the future. Why not give it a try? It takes less than 5 minutes to set up - click here
I note that I’m not the first person to use trees to help explain different money topics. Some of these analogies come up in some great personal finance books, such as The Richest Man in Babylon, Save Your Acorns and ‘Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth’.
If you have any other analogies for different money topics then please do share - email@example.com
Thanks for reading!
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