I don’t yet have a child, but I’ve been a child, so I think I’m qualified to review “Munny Journey: Keepsake Journal for Baby’s First Money” by financial advisor Brad Dugdale. Given last week’s announcement that it now costs $300,000 to raise a child from birth to 18, this book would make a great gift for young or financially naïve new parents.

Munny Journey Sections
The journal starts like a regular baby book. It has places for letters to the baby from parents or grandparents, but the letters focus on financial goals rather than personal goals.

Baby Firsts
The next section includes some financial firsts, such as a first piggy bank, state quarters and birth year coins, first dollar, the financial page from the date of birth, and a record of initial financial gifts. When I was a kid, I loved finding coins minted in my birth year, so I think this is where kids will really engage with the journal when they’re old enough to use it themselves.

Financial Instruments
The later sections are more for the parents than the children, at least at an early age. This section holds a record of the accounts, initial deposits, etc. It also explains how each financial instrument works and how parents can invest in them on behalf of their children. He includes savings accounts, savings bonds, bonds, stocks, and mutual funds. Although he doesn’t get into great detail about how each instrument works, he covers the important basics of risks and returns for each without talking down to the reader.

Financial Toolkit
This last section is more complicated, so many parents won’t use it, but the book is designed to suit all financial levels. He starts by explaining how to interview a financial advisor and track investments.

Finally, we get to the most important part of the book, especially for parents who are trying to decide whether they should start saving for their child and how much to save. He explains how money multiplies over time and how much additional gain a child will have if money is invested in year 0 vs. year 10 or 20 or later. He presents different savings options with real numbers (assuming a 9% return). He also includes a chart that indicates how prices rise over time using real-life examples of postage stamps, college tuition, etc.

In addition to making the case for saving now instead of waiting, he busts several money myths and explains common money mistakes that may keep some parents from investing or lead them to make poor financial choices.

College
Most parents worry about how they’ll pay for college, so he quickly reviews the current savings options for parents.

Munny Mountain
The book contains a cute chart parents can hang next to their child’s growth chart to track investment growth over time. Children are visual, so seeing amounts increase on a chart may help motivate them to save rather than spend their allowance and other money they receive. Following the chart, he includes pages to record baby’s net worth for the first several years.

Responsibility
A book by a financial advisor would not be complete without a quick primer on good financial responsibility. It’s basic, but it’s an important last reminder for parents and a lesson to children once they’re old enough to work through the book with their parents.

Audio CD
The book also includes an audio CD that offers additional financial advice for parents. It’s simple, but more detailed than the text in the book. It has an NPR feel to it, which is nice.

Downside of the Book
I could only think of one downside of the book: spelling. I’m a stickler for spelling, so “munny” annoyed me. But that’s me. Other people like cutesy names for baby items. I also hate kars, lite, and other brand terms that are cute misspellings of common words.

Will parents use it?
My mom filled out my baby book for about a year, then it was forgotten. My sister’s baby book last just a few months. I think new parents will dive into Munny Journey the same way they’d dive into a traditional baby book, but it will probably be one of those things that will be forgotten after a year. Fortunately, it can also be used by children as they get older, so it has potential to be useful much longer than a traditional baby book.

If I were looking for a gift for young parents or parents who weren’t financially literate, I would definitely consider this book. It offers great lessons for parents, but under the guise of giving a gift for a child. When I was five, my dad took me to the bank to open my first bank account. It was thrilling, but I wonder how many parents today do the same thing. If you know someone who’s unlikely to think about something like that, give them this book.

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