In the modern world, teaching your kids about money management is a lot more complicated than it used to be. It’s no longer enough to know how to squirrel away quarters in a piggy bank. To get along in the 21st-century economy, kids need to learn about things like electronic banking, compound interest, and the importance of staying debt-free as they grow up.
Fortunately, the same technology that makes modern money so complicated has also created new tools for learning about it. The Internet offers a wealth of educational websites, games, and banking apps to help kids of all ages master the basics of personal finance.
From the 3-year-old learning to identify different coins to the teenager thinking of starting a business, kids can take advantage of these tools to learn the money management skills they need.
Online Games That Teach Money Management
The Internet has a wide array of sites to educate kids about money. With fun facts, games, and videos, these sites present financial information in a form children can understand. Many of them are so much fun to play with, kids don’t even realize they’re learning at the same time.
1. H.I.P. Pocket Change
The United States Mint’s kids’ site, H.I.P. Pocket Change, aims to teach children about the money Americans use and its history. In its pages, youngsters can find a wealth of kid-friendly information about how coins are made, current U.S. coins, coin collecting as a hobby, and the mint itself.
Kids will probably have the most fun with the games section. Some of the games, like Hoop and Darts, are purely for entertainment. Others, like Gold Rush and Map Mania, teach about U.S. history or geography. Most of the games are narrated by an annoying synthesized voice, but kids who are old enough to read can simply turn it off and read the instructions instead.
The game that can help children the most with real-world money skills is Counting with Coins. This game teaches preschoolers and young school-age children how to identify different coins and their values, add prices, and perform basic math tasks. As they complete challenges, they earn badges and collect supplies for cartoon characters going on a camping trip.
2. Practical Money Skills Play
Kids ages 3 to 6 can have fun with Cash Puzzler. This simple puzzle cuts a picture of a $1, $5, $10, $20, or $100 bill into small squares, and the solver must reassemble it. After solving the puzzle, kids can read fun facts about the president featured on the bill.
For 5- to 8-year-olds, Peter Pig’s Money Counter teaches how to identify coins and add their values. Kids earn virtual money for playing, which they can choose to save or spend on accessories for Peter Pig in the virtual store.
3. Financial Football
For older kids, there’s Financial Football. This Visa-sponsored game, available for Android, iOS, or Windows, uses football to make a multiple-choice money quiz more entertaining. Players answer questions about personal financial skills to move down the field and try to score. Topics include saving, budgeting, establishing good credit, avoiding debt, and identity theft.
The game has several levels of difficulty: Rookie for ages 11 to 14, All-Pro for ages 14 to 18, and Hall of Fame for 18 and up. Kids can play on their own or go head-to-head with another player. They can also set the length of the game, from five to 30 minutes.
4. Savings Spree
The iOS app Savings Spree, sponsored by Money Savvy Generation, is a game to teach kids to save money for a specific goal. It’s presented as a game show hosted by a talking cartoon pig. Players take on the role of contestants. The game is designed for ages 7 and up, but younger kids can also play with help from a parent or older sibling.
The game plays out as a series of mini-games, such as matching or a maze. Each one gives players the chance to win or lose money with their decisions. Their score at the end is their “nest egg.”
Savings Spree shows how daily lifestyle choices can affect long-term savings, such as how buying a daily soda can add up to over $500 in a year. It also teaches how unexpected expenses can derail your savings plans and the importance of having an emergency fund.
The Savings Spree app costs $5.99, but it can provide kids with hours of entertainment along with some useful knowledge. It’s received awards from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, Children’s Technology Review, and the National Parenting Product Awards program.
5. You Are Here
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is the sponsor of You Are Here, which teaches kids to be smarter consumers. Aimed at fifth to eighth graders, the site features an imaginary shopping mall populated by colorful cartoon teens. There’s an animated version that requires Flash software to use and an HTML-only version with just text.
Kids visit different areas of the mall to learn about various financial topics. The sections include:
- West Terrace. This area focuses on advertising and marketing. Kids can learn about advertising techniques by designing a poster ad, play a matching game to learn about target marketing, visit Gr8 Gadgets to understand how TV ads can be misleading, and check out the Nutritional Emporium to learn about suspicious health claims.
- East Terrace. This section of the mall teaches kids about scams. They can learn about bogus modeling offers at Clothing Co., fraudulent health products at Maggie’s Miracle Products, phony freebies at the Free Vacation booth, and tips for spotting scams at Kablamo Comics.
- Food Court. The food court showcases the idea of business competition. Kids can learn about competition by visiting three competing pizzerias, watch a documentary about monopolies at the movie theater, explore the concept of supply and demand at Candytooth Kingdom, and protest a proposed merger at the Tripple Cold Creamery.
- Security Plaza. This area is devoted to fighting identity theft. Mall security explains how to reduce your identity theft risk, while network security discusses online privacy protection. Then kids can head to the arcade to learn what information it’s most important to protect and the book cafe to learn safety on social media.
6. Biz Kids
The Biz Kids site is all about celebrating young entrepreneurs. It’s the companion site to the “Biz Kids” TV show, a personal finance show for kids on PBS. The show profiles young entrepreneurs and explores topics like credit and debt, budgeting, taxes, saving, careers, financial markets, and the economy.
The website features:
- Clips from the show
- Games about resource allocation, such as running a lemonade stand or buying piggy banks to attack rival pigs
- Resources for starting a business, such as a sample business plan and tips on marketing, bookkeeping, and making the sale
- Resources for adults, including a blog called Money Talk with tips for parents on talking to kids about money and a treasure hunt activity to run at school
Most of the content on Biz Kids is free. You can pay for extras like full episodes of the show, copies of the book “How to Turn $100 Into $1,000,000,” or an online financial literacy course based on the book. Middle school and high school teachers can also access companion lesson plans for each episode of the show.
7. Con ‘Em if You Can
Created by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, Con ‘Em If You Can is a game about financial scams suitable for middle and high school students. Players take on the role of a novice scammer working in the town of Shady Acres. They learn the tricks of the trade from the master con artist, aptly named Conner, and build an arsenal of shady tricks to manipulate their marks.
As they play, teens learn vital lessons about how to spot a scam. They learn to recognize such tricks as making extravagant promises, faking expert credentials, and creating a false sense of scarcity. By getting inside a scammer’s head, they become better able to recognize cons when they meet them in real life.
Con ‘Em If You Can is available as a free app for Android or iOS and a Web-based game. The website also includes educational videos on the art of the con and a quiz on fraud techniques.
8. JumpStart’s Reality Check
The JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy is a nonprofit that promotes financial education for kids. One of the tools it uses to do this is JumpStart’s Reality Check, a financial quiz for teens.
The quiz asks teens multiple-choice questions about what lifestyle they imagine for themselves after they graduate from high school or college. For instance, they can select where they plan to live, what type of transportation they plan to use, and how much student loan debt they expect to have.
After they submit their answers, teens get the reality-check part. The site estimates how much the student’s chosen lifestyle would cost and gives examples of jobs that pay the salary they’d need to finance it. It also outlines what level of education they’re likely to need to get these sorts of jobs.
This preview of the future helps steer youngsters toward realistic choices about their future career path. Based on the answers they get, they might decide they need to stay in school longer, choose a different career, or scale down their expectations about their future lifestyle.
Apps for Managing Money
Games and quizzes are fine for learning about money in the abstract. However, kids and teens need to start managing their own money in the real world at some point.
That’s why many parents choose to give their children an allowance. It gives them real, practical experience with handling money and shows them how their choices about spending and saving make a difference. And if the allowance is tied to chores, it also teaches them the crucial lesson that time is money.
In the old days, kids used to stash their nickels and dimes in a piggy bank. That’s still an option today, but children who do so miss out on the interest they’d earn with a real bank account. They also have to keep all their money in cash, which isn’t useful for online shopping.
Fortunately, in the modern world, there’s an app for that — several, in fact. Some allowance-tracking apps are tied to a real-world bank account, while others are just a way of keeping track of earnings. Some apps are best for young children, while others are suited to teens. Whatever your kids’ ages and needs, there’s an app that can help them manage their money.
Bankaroo is a virtual bank account for kids to track their allowance money. Although any child with basic reading skills can use it, Bankaroo says most of its users are between the ages of 5 and 14.
Kids can use their Bankaroo accounts to keep track of their earnings and spending. They can view past and upcoming transactions and even make transfers to other kids in the family. They can also set savings goals, monitor progress toward them, and earn digital badges for achieving them.
Bankaroo offers extra features for parents. Besides using their kids’ Bankaroo accounts to pay them for chores, they can choose to encourage saving by adding interest to their kids’ savings accounts or matching the money they set aside in savings.
One limitation of Bankaroo is that it’s not tied to a real bank account. When kids want to cash in their earnings, they need to ask a parent or guardian. So kids aren’t literally in control of their own money. They’re still dependent on a parent. This app may be most suitable for younger kids, who may not have the discipline to handle real cash yet.
The basic Bankaroo app is free for iOS, Android, and Kindle. There’s also a Web-based Bankaroo Online that works with any Internet-connected device. If parents pay for the Bankaroo Plus app, their kids can set up three separate accounts within the app: checking for daily spending, savings for long-term goals, and a charity account for donations.
There’s also a special Bankaroo for Schools app for the classroom. This free app includes an online portal for teachers and a mobile app for students.
The BusyKid app offers a lot of features for both parents and kids. For starters, it serves as a digital chore chart. Parents can add chores to a list and set a fee for each one, and kids can log on to select “I did it” when they complete one.
As soon as the parents confirm the chore is complete, they can immediately transfer the payment from their bank account. They can also use the app to pay their kids a regular weekly allowance.
Kids can use their earnings in BusyKid in various ways. They can save the money, donate it to a charity, or load it onto a bank-issued reloadable prepaid card for spending. Most intriguing of all, they can choose to invest their funds in stocks — yes, real ones — for companies such as Nike and Netflix.
If this sounds like a little too much responsibility for children, don’t worry — BusyKid provides a safety net. Parents get the final say over any money transfer into or out of the system, from allowances to charitable donations.
The app sends parents a push notification each time a kid uses it to make a payment. Parents respond to it to transfer the money from their own accounts into the child’s BusyKid account.
BusyKid also includes a feature called BusyPay. Friends and family members can use this feature to transfer money to a child’s account. It’s good for everything from sending birthday money to paying a kid for babysitting or mowing lawns.
A BusyKid subscription costs $19.99 per year and comes with one prepaid Visa card. Parents with more than one child can add extra cards for $7.99 per year each.
Another app families can all use together is FamZoo. This app bills itself as a “virtual family bank” in which parents serve as the bankers and children are the customers. Parents get to set their own rules for the family bank, including:
- Regular automated allowance payments
- Rewards for chores and other jobs
- Penalties for missed work
- Parent-funded interest or matching contributions for savings
- Loans to kids for specific purposes
- Automatically diverting a portion of kids’ earnings to savings or charitable giving
Parents and kids can use FamZoo to keep track of allowances, chores, spending, saving, and giving. They can also make instant transfers to other family members at any time. Kids can see only the money in their own accounts, while parents can see the balances for all family members.
Any member of the family can use FamZoo to set a savings goal and monitor progress. The app also offers other features, like personal budgets, to-do lists, and shared wish lists for gift ideas.
There are two separate versions of FamZoo. The parent-funded account is virtual-only, like Bankaroo, while the prepaid card account includes prepaid cards for all family members and the ability to move money between cards with no fee. Both accounts charge a $5.99 monthly subscription fee. You can reduce the cost by prepaying for six, 12, or 24 months.
FamZoo is available for iOS, Android, and as a website that works on any device.
Designed for kids between ages 6 and 18, GoHenry is like a debit card with training wheels. The service provides kids with their own personalized reloadable cards, but their parents decide how the children can use them.
Parents can transfer their kids’ weekly allowance to the card and add tasks the children can complete to earn extra cash. Kids can then use the card like a debit card — within limits. Parents can manage their kids’ cards through the GoHenry app, and all their children’s spending takes place under their watchful eyes.
For starters, parents can receive notifications about how much their kids spend and where. They can set limits on how much their kids can spend per week, how much they can spend at one time, and where they’re allowed to spend it — in stores, at ATMs, or online. And they can instantly block a card completely if it gets lost or as a form of discipline.
The app also has features for kids. They can use it to make a to-do list, budget their allowances, set savings goals, automate their savings, and track spending. They can also choose to make small weekly donations to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
The GoHenry app is available for iOS or Android and has a Web-based version that works on any device. There’s a $3.99 per child monthly fee for the service.
Like GoHenry, Greenlight is a way to give your kids their first debit card with a little parental supervision. However, Greenlight gives you a bit more control. Instead of just deciding whether your kids can use the card in stores, you can choose the specific stores where they can use it. If they try to make a purchase elsewhere, the app sends you an alert.
Like most family finance apps, Greenlight has features for weekly allowances, chore tracking, and savings goal tracking. It also adds extras like separate accounts for spending, saving, and giving as well as parent-paid interest on savings. It provides notifications about your kids’ spending and allows you to turn off the card if it’s lost or stolen.
However, Greenlight also adds some features most money apps don’t have. For instance, the Greenlight card is compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay. Teens who have jobs can use direct deposit to send their pay to their Greenlight account. And kids can choose to round up their spending to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference to savings automatically.
The Greenlight app is available for iOS or Android. Greenlight’s basic plan costs $4.99 per month and comes with cards for up to five kids.
For $7.98 per month, you can upgrade to Greenlight + Invest, which adds a kid-friendly investing platform. For as little as $1, kids can buy partial shares in their favorite companies with no trading fees. Parents must approve all their trades within the app.
The top-tier plan, Greenlight Max, costs $9.98 per month. It has all the features of Greenlight + Invest plus extras like purchase protection, identity theft protection, and cellphone insurance. Greenlight Max users also get to go straight to the front of the queue when calling customer support. All three plans come with a one-month free trial.
Kids learn to manage money in three primary ways. The first is to take in the theory through lessons, from simple ones like coin-counting to complex ones about investing. Financial websites and apps help kids absorb these lessons by making them fun and entertaining. The more kids enjoy being on a site, the longer they’ll stick with it and the more they’ll pick up.
Second, kids learn to deal with money in practical terms by handling their own. Figuring out how to stretch their limited dollars to meet both short-term and long-term needs is excellent practice for budgeting as an adult. Money-management apps put kids’ earnings into a form that’s easy to see and use and help them monitor their progress toward financial goals.
Lastly, kids learn by example. One of the best ways to teach your children to manage their money wisely is to do the same yourself. If they grow up watching you compare prices at the grocery store or save for large purchases rather than buying on credit, those lessons will stick with them in the years to come. Not even the best app can substitute for that.