As with just about any skill, it’s best to start teaching financial literacy early. There are a number of free apps as well as websites listed below that kids can use to improve their financial literacy skills. Technology can help kids all the way from elementary school to teenagers and college students learn about saving, investing, compound interest, debt reduction and more. The sooner you start, the better ingrained these vital concepts will be.
Of course, there are different appropriate concepts for different age levels. The apps listed here are a nice mix that cover everything from the basics of saving and spending a child’s first allowance to beginning to dabble in stocks and bonds and are available on both iPhone and Android. There are also tools to help with budgeting. All of them can help increase financial proficiency of kids, teens, and the youth. They provide a variety of risk-free environments in which to learn about things like bank accounts and credit with direct parent participation and oversight.
Allowance+ / Bank of Mom and Dad (iOS)
As the name indicates, Allowance+ (formerly known as the Bank of Mom and Dad) helps both kids and parents manage weekly or monthly allowances. Managing money is key to financial literacy. In addition to specifying a recurring allowance, parents can set bonus goals for kids that automatically add to their account once achieved (such as getting an “A” on an upcoming test).
The basic app, meant for use on one child’s device, is free. It’s possible to set it up for multiple children and network the whole family’s apps together, but that requires a paid upgrade (a one-time fee of 99 cents). The only downside is that it appears to only be available for iOS (Apple) devices.
Bankaroo (Android, iOS, Kindle, Web Browser)
The virtual bank app Bankaroo gives kids a “play account” to manage the money promised to them by mom, dad and other sources. No funds are actually transferred or held; parents simply create an account to assign amounts to accounts for allowances, chores, birthdays and things of that nature. It help help kids budget.
The kids then get a virtual approximation of a bank account that allows them to learn about and experiment with budgets, savings goals, and managing both a checking and savings account. Badges that are unlocked for reaching various goals add a fun “gamification” element to it.
The free version, available as a mobile app or by logging in through a web browser, offers all of the features around financial literacy except for the ability to have virtual checking/savings accounts and the ability to transfer funds to other Bankaroo users. These features are available by upgrading to Bankaroo Plus, which requires a one-time $4.99 payment.
BusyKid (Android, iOS)
As Allowance+ focuses on allowances, BusyKid was made for managing chores that kids get paid for (though allowance can be incorporated to). You can quickly pick from a list of common chores, and BusyKid will even assemble lists of age-appropriate chores for you. Even find chores for teenagers or high school students, and let them save money too.
Unlike the two previous free apps we’ve looked at, this one deals with real money which is great. No better way to help kids learn about basic as well as advanced financial literacy then by real cash! It’s possible to use it just as a chore tracker, but the intended use of it is to have parents link a debit or credit card to the app and actually pay children for their chores directly through it.
So what can kids do with this money once it’s in their account? The app can be linked to a BusyKid Visa Prepaid Spend Card (which is delivered by mail in about a week after registration) that allows them to make real-world purchases by themselves. If they want cash, they can move the amount they want back to the parent account. Children can also opt to make donations with their money (from a list of charities approved by the app). Saving, investing, making decisions are income are all great financial literacy skills to have.
If you have older children, they also have the option of taking their first low-risk steps into investing. Children can choose to use their money to purchase fractional shares of stock in certain major companies (a limited list is presented by the app). The smartphone app can help kids learn about compound interest and the benefits to saving/investing early. There are no fees to buy, but a parent will need to open an account with e-brokerage Stockpile and there are fees for selling stock (usually 99 cents plus 3% per sale). Learn more about investing for long term financial stability.
The app itself is free, but note that there are fees for a number of features and transactions. The biggest is the prepaid debit card, which has a $7.99 per year subscription cost. There is also a $1 fee to make transfers between BusyKid accounts, a fee of 3% to convert to a different currency, and a $3 ACH transfer fee to move money from the debit card back to a bank account.
There are a number of smartphone apps that cover household chores. These will be great tools for parents in that they can assign their children chores such as cleaning the dishes, mowing the yard, making their bed, or anything. Then, once the child completes the chore, they get paid their allowance.
These are great financial literacy apps for kids. They help the child (as well as the parent!) learn about the value of hard work. The chore apps also generally have budgeting, investing, and saving components too. Find chore financial literacy apps for kids.
FamZoo (Android, iOS)
It isn’t really an exaggeration to say that the world of finance is a jungle. FamZoo attempts to prepare kids for it with a simulated bank account tied to a prepaid debit MasterCard. It’s somewhat similar to BusyKid, but this app requires kids to use the card to pay for anything; it’s a $5.99 per month subscription for that and for remote parental access with the ability to network the cards of up to 10 children.
Aside from that, the main selling point of FamZoo is the variety of free financial literacy features it offers to both parents and kids. Money can be moved freely between networked cards, and all sorts of rules and lists can be put into play. Parents are also able to issue bills and loans to kid, and to pay them interest on their virtual savings. Free ATM withdrawals can be made from MoneyPass machines, which are often found at convenience store chains.
There are several free or low cost smartphone apps that act more as games (“edutainment”) than anything else. Companies have developed resources for children, teenagers, middle and high school students, and kids of all ages. Games can also teach a lot about financial literacy and can be more phone for kids to play. iPhone and Android options are out there. Find games that teach kids about finances.
Greenlight (Android, iOS)
Greenlight is quite similar to FamZoo, just at a slightly lower price point (4.99 per month). Each kid (up to five) gets a MasterCard debit card, and it’s tied to an app with all sorts of features that emulate a checking and savings account.
One money management feature that is unique to Greenlight right now is the ability for parents to set store-specific spending limits for their kids, which can be great for teenagers. The big downside is that there is no ATM network for free withdrawals (you’ll always have to pay the operator fee), and it lacks any ability to add cash directly to the card. But that too (ATM fees) can be an example of what not to teach kids, as the costs add up. Knowing what not to buy is also part of financial proficiency.
Another app with a focus on allowance and chores for younger kids, iAllowance is best known for its clean design and sync features. You can use iCloud and Dropbox to coordinate it with all of the iOS devices in the house, and parents can push alerts and messages to kids even when they are offline.
It’s also a good choice for big families with a lot going on – you can add unlimited kids or teenagers and create an unlimited amount of lists. And if you want to track the use of leisure time apps like games and video players, iAllowance can show you the amount of time spent on each as well which is also a very helpful technology tool to have.
The price is a one-time payment of $2.99. It is only on the iPhone.
Kids Money (iOS)
Look for the app developed by a company called AppsRocket by this name, as a search for “kids money” will bring up pretty much every free app related to child money management. This smartphone app is worth getting for your teenagers or kids.
Kids Money is designed for younger children and lets them make “wish lists” for individual savings goals, such as a toy they want or a gift they plan to buy for someone. Even children in elementary school can use this app to help start to learn about financial literacy. Parents can use the app to help teach kids how to allocate and prioritize money based on what purchases need to be made soon and how much they need or want each item.
The financial literacy app is free with no microtransactions, and supports all of the currencies that iOS does.
Another allowance-focused app meant for younger kids, PiggyBot lets them manage their funds within the context of a virtual bank account. Young teens can use it too. The app has fewer features than some of the others listed here, but has the benefit of being completely free.
Savings Spree (iOS)
Savings Spree is an “edutainment” title that teaches kids about financial literacy concepts in a game show format. Kids answer questions that help test their knowledge of when to save, spend, donate and invest, all financial literacy skills.
The one-time price of $5.99 might seem a little high for a phone game, but it’s more polished than these things usually are. The game has won an Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review and received the highest possible review score from Common Sense Media.
Summary on youth and financial literacy
While there are both negatives as well as positives to children and teenagers using their smartphones or tablets so much, make it into a positive by using the free technology tools to teach them about the basics of financial literacy. All of the resources above are very effective to helping youth start to learn and develop the skills.
By Jon McNamara