If I Had a Zillion Dollars . . .

Young Entrepreneur
KidsWay Inc. Publishing
$16/year subscription

Consumer's Union Publishing
$16/year subscription

I spent my first tax refund on a subscription to Elle. What did I get? Lipstick tips and the beginnings of a warped body image.

Guess what, preteen-Elle-readers-cum-mommies? There are much better ways for our own kids to spend their annual lump sum from the Fed. When your daughters and sons sign off on this year's 1040EZ, take your pen back and slip them a magazine designed to teach smart spending habits for the refund and beyond.

Zillions, the glossy, ad-free kids' publication from Consumer's Union (the 63-year-old nonprofit that publishes Consumer Reports) talks straight about stretching allowance and minimum-wage dollars for top-quality clothes, toys, and food. A typical issue has three sections: "Testing Stuff," traditional Consumer Reports-style product comparisons, featuring kids' own bold opinions; "Money Smart$," tips for prioritizing and for distinguishing "want" from "need"; and (my favorite) "Ads and Fads," "inside" info that gives kids the savvy to recognize marketing lures.

In a recent three-page spread, Zillions explores "'sense'-sational selling tricks" like pleasant aromas, mood music, and color schemes in retail settings. It's a valuable lesson in consumer awareness jam-packed with quantitative comparisons ("Most people (84 out of every 100) said they liked the shoes in the floral-scented room better"); expert testimonials (" . . . scientists at the Smell and Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, tried a test . . ."); and lots of believable quotes ("'It's what's inside the box that counts,' billion ideas will run through my head. I will try to implement it, to think what I can do with it to make money.'"

Young Entrepreneur's worst crime is the refrain that entrepreneurship is all about the house, the car, the money. Not a word about the intrinsic rewards of discovery or the thrill of spending one's livelihood pursuing personal passions. A better tool for nurturing entrepreneurial spirit is Fast Company, the hip grownup magazine about work-as-life and life-as-work. Fast Company is an energizing mix of great photos and smart, fun, fast reads. It's definitely not kid-oriented but the role models are plentiful, the text is usually rated PG, and the focus on personal priorities before profit lends itself to family reading. A one-year subscription to Fast Company is $19.75.

So when your twelve-year-old begs for help to finance a start-up yo-yo repair shop with her 1998 refund, buy the latest issue of Fast Company for the family coffee table, and plunk down $16 for a year's worth of Zillions, the consumer empowerment zine that's pro-kid and fun to read.

Browse all three magazines on the Internet: Zillions at Functions/More/Prodserv/zillions.html; Young Entrepreneur at; and Fast Company at They are also available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and independent booksellers in the Twin Cities and nationwide.


Ann Rosenquist Fee is a regular reviewer of books for Minnesota Parent.

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