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Kids and Money: This Girl Has Her Own Helicopter!

The lemonade stand has been a classic way to teach kids about money. But when you think about it, what are you teaching them? If you toil in the sun for two hours you can make, what, maybe 20 bucks tops? And, that’s before you deduct the cost of lemonade mix and cups.

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For sure it teaches your kid about the importance of hard work and rolling up your sleeves — but what does it teach them about the value of money? To look at the numbers, it teaches them what it’s like to be a waitress in a small town on a slow day!

Mark and Diane Murphy had other ideas for their kids. Their 13-year-old daughter, Kristen, made enough money at her part-time job to buy her own helicopter. Well, a helicopter ride for kids, but still!

The Murphys are real-estate developers in the Adirondacks who also own a couple of unique convenient stores — one is an Adirondack log-cabin style and the other is built to look like a control tower, reflecting the family’s life-long passion for aviation.

Their kids help out in the store but the Murphys have gone one better in teaching them about business — they’ve actually set them up with their own mini-businesses right in the store.

They bought a kids’ helicopter ride online — you know, one of those rides you see outside of a grocery store that you put a quarter in and it bounces you around — and installed it in their aviation-themed convenience store, called Tower Shops (www.towershops.com).

Then they sold it to Kristen.

Photo by: Mark Murphy

“I handed her an amortization schedule for a loan to buy it — at a very reasonable rate of like 3 to 4 percent interest,” Mark said. “Each month, she emptied out the quarters from the ride, which came to about $25, and combined that with some of her allowance to make the monthly payment,” he explained.

She did so well, she started making double payments and paid off the loan in just under a year — 11 months. Now, she owns the helicopter outright. So, that $25 a month is extra cash in her pocket, in addition to her allowance, which is $5 a week.

"It makes me feel kind of excited that I've had an opportunity to do something like this," Kristen said. "My friends think it's so cool!"

The cool thing is, they’re not just teaching their kids to learn how to get a job and collect a paycheck, they’re teaching them the value of money by having them run their own business.

“She liked the idea of having something of her own to work with,” Diane said.

“I like that I don’t have to have other people tell me what to do!” Kristen added.

She’s learned all aspects of the business: Of course, she has to keep it clean. Plus, she has to empty out the quarters every few weeks, and call in a maintenance guy when something happens – like a kid tries to jam two quarters in there at the same time. And now, she’s also going to start paying her parents $5 a month for electricity.

And, of course, with real-estate developer parents, she learned a thing or two about location, location, location: The helicopter is located near the pharmacy, so while parents are waiting for their prescriptions, they might toss their child a quarter to go and ride the helicopter.

She’s also learned a thing or two about profit margins.

“Sometimes my friends ask for free rides — but I won’t let them!” Kristen said.

Smart girl.

The Murphys have instilled smart money management discipline in all three of their kids, teaching them that you spend some, save some and give some to charity.

Kristen likes to ride horses and often works at a family friend’s stable in exchange for time riding their horses. She spends some of her helicopter money on treats and brushes for her horses.

Her nine-year old brother, Jonathan, also has a business inside the Tower Shops. He’s into collecting coins, so the Murphys went to a coin shop and bought about $400 in old coins — everything from wheat pennies and steel pennies to Buffalo nickels. He had to put them each in sleeves and label and price them — they decided to double the price of what they paid for the coins. (These kids are really learning about profit margins!) He sold out in about a month and a half.

Further down the east coast, in Fort Myers, Fla., 14-year old Willow Tufano is also learning an important lesson about the value of money: She saved up enough to buy a foreclosed home for $12,000!

When you hear stories of families in distress losing their homes, you think, “Oh, the kids! Those poor kids.” Well, Tufano turned that equation around: Her mom works in real estate, and young Willow got an idea to start helping sell all the stuff left in foreclosed homes on Craigslist, according to a report on NPR. That netted her about $500 a month and soon, she had enough money to split that house, which is actually worth well over $100,000, with her mom. Of course, she still lives with her mom, so she’s renting out the house. In the next few years, she plans to buy out her mom, using her half of the $700 monthly rental income, so she owns the house outright by the time she’s 18.

Welcome to Florida in 2012: This little girl is your new landlord!

The Murphys asked their youngest child, seven-year-old Claire, what she might like to do for a business.

Clearly inspired by the success of Kristen’s helicopter-ride business, she replied: “Dad, sell me the ATM!”

Yup, those kids have definitely learned the value of money!

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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