The back story: I wrote recently of my Halloween experiment, giving children the choice of “cash or candy” again this year.
In 2016, I offered costumed children in third grade and up three fun-sized pieces of candy — a value of roughly 37.5 cents — or the chance to pick a coin envelope from a basket. (Younger children got candy.) The envelopes contained anywhere from 25 cents to $5; I made up 50 envelopes, and it took 54 kids for me to run out, meaning 93 percent took the money.
The set-up: This year, I gave costumed children in grades three and up three options:
1) Take three pieces of fun-sized candy, 2) Take no candy, but pick from a money basket, where every envelope has at least 25 cents in it with a maximum of $3, or 3) I take a fun-sized candy from the child’s bag, and they pick from the “big money basket,” where the envelopes contain 50 cents minimum up to a $5 grand prize.
I expected most kids to take money, but few to let me take their candy.
The results: I was dead wrong. Not a single child – including the neighbor who told me there was no way I would get any of her candy – took the small-money option.
Forty-eight children gave up candy to play for the big money; four kids just wanted candy.
The children picked the best deal, though I’m not sure they knew it or cared. (If you assume the three pieces of candy they don’t take – plus the one they gave up – were worth 12.5 cents each, they had no real possibility of loss, and a potential jackpot of 10 times their “investment.”)
They just valued the money more, given that they had more candy than they could eat.
But I was pleased that they at least wanted to talk about money, about trading something they valued (candy) for something they wanted more. And my costs were reduced, because my envelopes bought me 48 pieces of candy to give away to others.
Whether it is my approach, a cash-for-candy swap as advocated by the National Financial Educators Council or something you come up with on your own, I wholeheartedly recommend it; challenging the kids to think made Halloween an even bigger treat than normal, and that’s a pretty good trick.
Chuck Jaffe is editor at RagingBull.com; he a nationally syndicated financial columnist and the host of “MoneyLife with Chuck Jaffe” (moneylifeshow.com). He is a long-term investor and does no short-term trading of stocks, options or ETFs. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.