Tag Archives: financial literacy

Tom Henske Makes Total Cents

For a small town, Westport has been known for many things.

We’ve been an artists’ colony, the marketing capital of America, and the home of the world’s biggest hedge fund.

Now, Tom Henske wants Westport to be “the epicenter of kids’ financial literacy.”

If anyone can make it happen, he will.

A financial advisor for 27 years, a Westport resident for 20, a man of boundless energy, a relentless competitor (goalkeeper on 3 University of Virginia national championship teams), and the father of 2 children he was determined would learn about money, he has made children’s financial literacy the heart of a multi-pronged project.

Henske is the type of person who comes up with one great idea, spins it off into several others, then weaves them all together into a seamless web.

He also loves his town. He’ll use every resource here, to show it off to the world.

The first part of his project is a book. It Makes Total Cents is an easy way for parents to help their children understand finances.

Twelve chapters cover topics like budgeting, saving, compound interest, taxes, borrowing, insurance and philanthropy.

Parents read one short chapter a month (15 minutes). Each chapter has a corresponding podcast (created with the Westport Library — more on that later). In that short podcast, Henske helps parents frame questions that they can ask their children …

… at dinner, after they’ve sent one of Henske’s TikToks to the kids, to pique their curiosity.

There is no book like this on the shelves, he says. And certainly no corresponding material, to help parents raise financially literate kids.

Henske knows, because he looked. He did not want his son Spencer and daughter Sammi to be financially illiterate — “the shoemaker’s kids with no shoes” — so he searched for information.

Tom Henske and (from left) daughter Sammi, son Spencer and wife Stacey check out financial literacy information online. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

He found plenty for parents. But nothing for children and teenagers.

So he created it himself.

The Library is a perfect partner. Henske tapes his podcasts at Verso Studios *(they sound great).

He’s also spoken with Staples High School Financial Literacy teachers Lenny Klein, Sarah White and Stacey Delmhorst about having interested students help the project. They would be teaching their peers. It’s one more way to connect the schools and Library — and make Westport the financial literacy capital of the universe.

Now comes a uniquely Henskean twist. In an effort to get Total Cents into as many hands as possible, he’s worked overtime on marketing. In addition to his countless contacts, he’s got an idea: Westporters can help spread the kids’ literacy gospel.

For every Total Cents book someone here buys for a friend or relative beyond the “06880” Zip Code (click here), he’ll buy one for the local resident to pick up. Just send Henske the invoice: tom@totalcents.com.

It’s one more way, he says, “where Westport meets the world.”

And where Westport leads the world, in financial literacy for kids.

(For more information, click on www.TotalCents.com.)

(Here’s another financial idea: Please contribute to “06880.” Click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Pro-Choice Protest, Mitzvah Day, Bathroom Humor …

News of a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in an important abortion case has sparked nationwide protests.

There’s one planned for 4 p.m. this Sunday — Mother’s Day — on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Organizers (DefenDemocracy of CT) expect a large turnout.


“Mitzvah,” loosely translated from Hebrew, means “good deed.”

Last Sunday, over 150 congregants of all ages showed up at Temple Israel to perform mitzvahs.

Among the donations:

  • 10,000 meals to Ukrainian refugees
  • 200 comfort bags to hospitalized children
  • Dozens of lap blankets, walker bags, potted plants, and centerpieces to Jewish Senior Services and Weston Senior Center
  • 100 blessing/toiletry bags to Bridgeport Rescue Mission
  • 12 lasagnas were baked and delivered to Homes with Hope
  • 100 bagged lunches to Gillespie Center
  • 30 Mother’s Day cards to women fighting breast cancer
  • 50 cards and letters to US service members and IDF lone soldiers,

It was truly a local — and global — Mitzvah Day.


Want to give Mom something different for Mothers Day weekend? (Psssst…it’s Sunday!)

Take her to join Anthony Zemba at Earthplace on Saturday (May 7, 8 to 10 a.m.). The avid birder/environmental analyst/soil scientist/certified ecologist will lead a group along the trails of the nature and wildlife sanctuary.

Anthony recently joined LandTech, the civil engineering and environmental science firm that’s underwriting the bird walk.

Among the probable wildlife: scarlet tanagers; wood thrush; pileated, red- bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers; indigo buntings, goldfinch and orioles.

Spots are limited. Click here to register, and for more information.

Calling all bird watchers: See the pileated woodpecker!


Staples was ranked #5 nationally (large schools division), in this year’s 100 Best Wise (Working In Support of Education) High Schools Teaching Personal Finance. It was the top finish for any Connecticut school.

The list and ceremony honor excellence in personal finance education. Congratulations to teachers Lenny Klein and Sarah White — and of course their very “wise” students.


Whether it’s a Broadway show or a Westport restaurant, women know the drill: There’s a longer wait for the women’s restroom than the men’s.

So Tammy Barry was relieved (ho ho) when she spotted this sign yesterday at Rye Ridge Deli:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Every problem has a solution. This one is simple. It doesn’t cost a cent.

Now let’s see it everywhere else in Westport too.


Westporters know that the Memorial Day parade is one of the best community events of the year. Those who stay afterward, for the ceremony on Veterans Green across from Town Hall, know that it is a moving and important way to honor those who gave their lives for our country.

That is the idea of the holiday, after all.

There’s another chance to pay tribute too. That morning (May 30, 7:45 a.m.), the Fire Department honors all who died in service to our nation, and the Westport firefighters who died in the line of duty.

All are welcome at fire headquarters on the Post Road.

Westport Fire Department headquarters,


Former Westporter Diane (Prezkop) Reed died in November, after a brief illness. She was 71.

Diane graduated from Staples High School in 1968. She participated in intermural sports, and wrote for the school newspaper Inklings and yearbook.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in English and a master’s in Counseling and Higher Education.

In 1972, Diane married Steven Reed. She began a career at UConn as a research associate, then became assistant director of research and data acquisition for the Institute of Social Inquiry at Storrs.

The couple’s careers took them to Ohio, where Diane worked as an analyst, project director, manager of research operations and operations manager. A final move took them to Michigan, where she worked as marketing group director and director of teleservices. She loved being a mentor and coach to her staff, and enjoyed social and golf activities at Indianwood Golf Club.

After her divorce= Diane created a consulting practice, developing and editing training curricula and coaching management teams. In 2005 Diane returned to Westport to enjoy her family, and pursue her writing.

Friends and family describe Diane as “sweet, witty, compassionate, generous and kind.” She loved literature, science, spectator sports, music and humanity as a whole.  She was an avid collector and supporter of local artisans and craftsmen. She was passionate about her family, lifelong learning, and creative writing.

Diane’s siblings were Edward of Seattle, Raymond of Westport, Carole Prescott of Madison, and the late Thomas Prezkop of Newburyport, Massachusetts.  She is survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces and great-nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate the lives of Diane and her brother Thomas Prezkop will be held June 29 at Waters Edge in Westbrook. Donations in her name may be made to the Westport Library.

Diane Prezkop Reed


Former Westporter Thomas Prezkop, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, died earlier this year, after a battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. He was 73.

Tom was raised, and taught himself to sail, here. That started a lifelong love for all things aquatic. He graduated from Staples High School in 1966.

In early 1971 he headed to St. Maarten. There he co-owned and restored a 108-foot ketch, which he chartered. He also managed restaurants, started an omelet café, and captained other boats.

In 1978, Tom settled in Massachusetts. He married his first wife, Linn Anderson, and had a son, Andrew

Tom’s second career was in mechanical design engineering. He worked for medical device companies before founding Andover Medical Development Group, to do component manufacturing. He operated AMDG for 35 years, fulfilling contracts with NASA, Boston Scientific and others.

Tom was a passionate sailor.  He was an expert angler, certified scuba diver, licensed pilot and professional cook. He also enjoyed snow skiing, surfing, water skiing barefoot, and golf. He could build and fix anything

Tom passed his patience, creativity and playfulness on to Andrew, in whom he fostered lifelong passions as a musician, athlete, craftsman, outdoorsman, adventurer and father.  He was overjoyed to be a grandfather to Avery and Luke.

In 1995, Tom and a friend rescued a fellow boater who had fallen overboard in Gloucester and been seriously injured by the propeller. Tom received a congressional commendation.

In addition to his wife, son, daughter-in-law Geneva Brion and grandchildren, he is survived by his sister Carole Prescott of Madison, and brothers Edward of Seattle and Raymond of Westport, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. He was pre-deceased by his sister Diane Reed of Westport.

There will be a celebration of life at Water’s Edge in Westbrook on June 29.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Ocean Foundation and the Kaplan Family Hospice House.

Thomas Prezkop


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a recent visitor to Berkeley Road.

Hey, a guy’s gotta eat!

(Photo/Jill Grayson)


And finally … in honor of Rye Ridge Deli’s new restroom policy (see above story): These are the 2 best bathroom songs I could find.

Dinnertime During A Pandemic: 10 Ideas For Creating Money-Smart Kids

Westporter Tom Henske is a partner and Certified Financial Planner at New York-based Lenox Advisors. As he’s helped client’s over the past 25 years, he developed Lenox’s “Money Smart Kids” program, empowering parents to teach their children about finances.  

A frequent contributor on CNBC, Tom helped them build their financial literacy “Money & You” segments. For years, he wrote a biweekly column, “Money Smart Kids,” for the Westport News.

Today — in these financially turbulent times — Tom helps parents talk to their kids about money.

You’ve probably heard a friend or colleague joke, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” While a sense of humor can lighten a very dim mood, there is some truth to it.

Never has our community had so many consecutive nights of discussion opportunities. Family dinners are amazing opportunities for deep conversations that can be both interesting and educational.

Tom Henske

That’s one benefit of quarantine. But if the discussions are getting a bit stale, or you want a prompt beyond “How was your day?” here’s an idea.

Why not help your kids emerge from this crisis “money smart”? You can help your middle or high schoolers build their financial literacy. What a gift as they begin to blaze their path in the world.

But how do you bring up that dinner dinner conversation without sounding like a dorky parent? Well, you can slip in some questions as conversation starters. Whether they spur a 5-minute conversation or lead to a 30-minute debate, the drip-drip-drip method of helping develop money smarts may be better than the fire hose.

You’re not trying to create the next Warren Buffet. You’re just trying to make sure the topic of money isn’t taboo in your household, and help build a foundation of the basics of handling it that your kids can carry with them forever. For example:

Parent: “I heard today that kids don’t graduate with enough money smarts before they go to college. Can I try a question with you guys? Do you happen to know what an emergency reserve fund is?”

Then: Don’t talk. Be patient. Let them come up with the answer themselves. If they don’t, ask other questions that leads them to the answer.

Below are 10 suggested topics. Don’t be tempted to move on to #2 the same night. Save it for another evening. If we’re locked in much longer, you’ll need those dinner topics. Otherwise you’re back to “How was your day?” (Answer: “I was here all day with you!“)

Money does not grow on trees — or lie in the sand. Teaching financial literacy to children is important.


  1. Emergency reserve
    • What is an emergency reserve?
    • Why is an emergency reserve fund important to have?
    • What can people use for their emergency funds?
    • How much should people have in emergency funds?
    • Where should we keep those emergency funds?
  2. Investing
    • What are stocks? Bonds?
    • Why is your time horizon (short vs. long term) important for which combination of stocks/bonds you choose?
      • What are things we might want to spend money on in the short term?
      • What are examples of things we invest for the long term?
    • What is risk tolerance?
    • What have the historical returns of stocks been? Bonds?  How about the last 4 weeks returns of each of those?
      • Fun Game:  What was the S&P at when you were born?
      • How about when we (mom/dad) were born?
  3. Budgeting
    • What is a budget? Why do we need one?
    • Based on our quarantine situation
      • Where are we spending less than usual?
      • Where are we spending more than usual?
    • Will we change anything based on what we’re experiencing?
    • Will we recover money we’ve already laid out but now won’t get the benefit of?
        • Camp
        • Sports
        • Gym memberships
  4. Credit card spending
    • Why is it important to have credit cards during this time?
    • What other ways do we pay for things when we are social distancing?
    • Should we still keep some cash just in case? Was there ever a time in our history that we were concerned about having cash in our hands? (Y2K)
  5. Identity theft
    • What is identity theft?
    • Why should we be more careful during this time?
    • What are things we need to look out for?
    • How can we proactively be careful?
    • What happen if our identity is stolen?
  6. Insurance
    • What type of insurance become more/less important during a time like this?
      • Health(+)
      • Life (+)
      • Auto (-)
    • Are we now finding out that some insurance contracts don’t cover pandemics?
  7. Economy (general)
    • What companies will thrive in this environment and why?
    • Which companies will struggle during this time period?
      • Airlines vs. Zoom
    • Lost revenue from sports
    • Small business
      • Restaurants
    • Government stimulus
      • Pros/cons
      • How much is $2 trillion
      • Why are some people getting checks for $1,200?
  8. Charity
    • Should we be more or less charitable during this time?
    • Should our donations be more local vs. national focused?
    • Who in Westport is helping?
    • Who needs help?
  9. Financial media
    • What tends to happen during a crisis in the media?
    • Why is it important to chose your media sources carefully?
  10. Borrowing/lending
    • What are “interest rates?”
    • What’s happening to interest rates right now?
    • When financial consumers follow interest rates, what financial parts of their lives are they thinking about?
      • Mortgage rates
        • Why do people take out mortgage loans to purchase their homes?
      • Auto loans
      • Student loans (How do you feel about the governments proposal to eliminate student loan debt? What consequences will that have?)

(How did those questions work? Click “Comments” to let us know!)

In September 2017, Tom Henske’s daughter Sammi and son Spencer went shopping to help Hurricane Harvey victims.Their shopping cart would come in handy today!