Does that Make Cents? Ways to Help Kids and Teens Learn about Money

By: Carol Church & David L. Sexton, Jr.

Boy in a suit
PhotoSpin [Boy in a Suit with Red Piggy Bank by Olga Kriger]
As parents and those who work with parents know, it can sometimes feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of information to convey to kids before they grow up. They need to know how to have a healthy relationship…how to run a household…how to treat others…how to hold a job…and, oh yes, how to manage money! This last one is, of course, very important, but for many parents, it can be easy to forget, avoid, or put off.

Of course, there’s no substitute for the power of setting a good example and talking regularly to children and teens about money-related topics. From an early age, parents should help their kids learn about things like savings and budgeting. That’s why it is so important to ensure that communication lines between you are your children are open and strong. Bryant and Levin (2003) provide tips for parents to open up communication with their kids, specifically about personal finances. One of their suggestions is to avoid engaging in lectures, and instead try to give your kids a “hands on” role in the family finances. In other words, rather than vaguely trying to explain to kids the ins and outs of personal finance, try to engage them by using your own as an example and involving kids in the management process. This gives them the opportunity to learn practically and understand that these particular lessons will be useful in the future.

Bryant and Levin also suggest trying to be transparent about finances so your kids can learn early on just how expensive it is to live! In addition to supporting openness in your relationship with your kids and modeling the importance of managing money properly, this will also likely lead to more respect from your kids as they realize how hard you work just to do basic things like putting food on the table. Finally, the next step would be to get them involved in managing their own money! For instance, you can start by having kids designate some of their allowance to saving, some to spending, and some to giving away. And at the store, they can help parent’s comparison shop and think about what makes a bargain. Of course, topics like debt and interest should be brought up, preferably with real-life examples and stories.

But for those parents who may feel like they need some more help bringing home these lessons, there are lots of great learning tools out there. And what do kids love? Okay, we all know the answer to that. Apps and the Internet! Read on for a list of useful, educational, and just plain fun sites, tools, and apps for parents and educators who want to help children and teens grow up to be money-smart.

Websites

HowtheMarketWorks– This free stock market simulation site has a vast wealth of resources for kids (and their parents!) who want to learn what it might be like to invest in the stock market. The site allows anyone to set up a virtual “portfolio” and track it in real time, complete with short sales, margin trading…you name it.   They also hold contests and give out prizes!
TheMint– This large and comprehensive site covers everything from fun games for young kids and “What Kind of Spender Are You?” quizzes (what teen doesn’t love a quiz?) to meatier tools like a Power of 72 calculator. Though kids may not be motivated to use it on their own, it’s a great jumping-off place for parents who want to explain or illustrate a specific point, such as the power of compound interest and the basics of credit cards.
BizKids– Know any budding entrepreneurs? This site features tons of info for kids and teens with an interest in starting their own business, as well as clips from a fun show about kids in business.

 

Money Management Tools

Piggybot– Ever had a child ask to borrow money when you were out, then forgotten to get it back? PiggyBot is a simple allowance management tool that helps families keep track of when allowance is earned, distributed, and spent. The app also helps kids set goals—a key part of learning to manage money.
Allowance and Chores Bot– This app also allows you to keep track of kids’ allowances, but has additional functionality for allowing kids to earn money for various chores and to get chore reminders. This app connects “work” with “money” in an intuitive way.
Bankaroo– Billing itself as a “virtual bank for kids,” this multi-platform tool offers another option for parents and kids who want to manage allowances, goals, and expenses across a family.

 

Games

Celebrity Calamity– In this web-based game, kids help animated “celebrities” with poor money management skills get back on their financial feet. Focused especially on wise credit card use!
Farm Blitz– In another fun web-based game from the same creators, “farmers” try to keep their crops thriving while also watching out for the havoc debt can wreak and learning about the magic of compound interest. Addictive for any age.
Motion Math: Pizza– While this app is perhaps somewhat more about math than money, it offers your child a hint of what it’s like to run a business. Kids have to decide which “pizza suppliers” offer the best deals and what prices to set for their pies.
StarBanks Adventure– In this app from T. Rowe Price, kids learn about basic financial concepts like diversification, smart spending, inflation, and rate of return while adventuring through an alien world.
Moneytopia– This very meaty game is not for young  kids, and it’s no Candy Crush. The interface is also dated. However, if you’d like to walk a teen or young adult through a simulation that looks quite a bit like real life on your own, it doesn’t stint on detail or reality.
Hit the Road: A Financial Adventure– In this game, kids play the role of friends traveling cross-country who have to budget for food, gas, and other unexpected events, while being tempted to spend. Aimed at younger kids, but probably quite relevant to teens and college students….

 

Enjoy trying and using these financial learning tools!

References

Bryant, J., & Levin, M. (2003). Talking to your kids About Money. Black Enterprise, 33(8), 88.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *