When I was a child, my parents rewarded me with a weekly allowance based on the number of chores I completed. I had the basic tasks, such as taking out the trash and keeping my room clean, but I could also earn extra money for more time-intensive chores. If I wanted to see my potential earnings, I simply went to the refrigerator and checked my chore chart. At the end of each month, my mother would take me to the mall and I could spend some of my money, but a portion was also placed into a savings account; it helped me understand the importance of working for what I wanted and to always set aside some money to help cover unexpected expenses. Although this method may have worked well for my generation, today’s youth need something with a bit more pizazz. Thankfully, there are several online tools now available to help teach children the value of a dollar and how to save for the future. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. My Job Chart
This online application works on the iPad, iPhone and Android devices. Best of all, it’s free. Parents can set up an account and assign tasks. Each task is given a point value, which translates into actually money earned (500 points equals $5.00). Students can log in, complete chores and earn points. Then, they can decide whether to save, share (donate) or spend those points. Students not only develop a strong work ethic, but also learn how to manage their money in a safe environment.
Parents who want to teach their children how to earn and spend money may want to consider Oink (formerly Virtual Piggy). With this free online tool, parents can set allowance amounts, spending limits and authorize purchases made through the Piggy Store. Students can also create a wish list, which can be accessed by authorized friends and family members. Once logged in, users can quickly see how much is being saved and spent each month.
3. Family Mint
Family Mint offers a 60-page step-by-step workbook and online money management application that is easy for families to use. During the two month program, students will learn how to track their money, create goals, budget and understand how interest works. There are three programs available, ranging from free (basic) to $29.99 (premium). The online tools are accessible through any smart phone.
In addition to these online tools, there are several other interactive games and websites that offer help with teaching students how to save and be responsible with their money.
4. Credit Card Simulator
So many students get into trouble with credit cards because they don’t understand how interest works or realize how long it takes to pay off their debt. This free online tool actually shows students what their monthly payments would be, based on the card they choose, and how long it would take to pay off the credit card, depending on the payment made each month. It’s a real eye-opener for those who have never used a credit card.
This website offers parents a variety of tools to help teach their children how to lead financially smart lives. The modules are organized by age, which makes it easy for parents to find suggested activities that are appropriate for their children.
6. The Mint
Kids, tweens and parents will all find this website very useful. Each section offers tips on saving, spending, tracking, giving and investing money. Tools, such as the Budget Calculator and Saving Calculator, can help students set goals and create a plan to reach those goals. The site is free to use and many of the modules can be easily viewed on an iPad.
Disney and T.Rowe Price have teamed up to create this interactive game that teaches children the importance of financial planning. During the game, students will learn how to set goals, save and spend wisely, understand inflation and asset allocation, as well as how to diversify their savings plan. It’s a great tool for those with younger children.
It’s never too early to start teaching children about money. Parents should not only encourage their children to save for future purchases, but also discuss the importance of saving for college. Along with monthly allowances and incentives for good grades, parents should also teach their children how to search and apply for scholarships at a young age. Those that develop good saving habits early on, and look for ways to reduce their overall expenses, will more than likely find themselves graduating with minimal student loan debt and a brighter financial future.
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