Teaching Kids Financial Literacy? There's an App for That.
It's always been tough to get kids to understand how money works. There are a number of apps that can help. Both Android and iPhones have various free or low cost applications that can show kids the importance of saving, budgeting, investing and otherwise managing their money. In addition, these apps give them the tools they need to start saving and show them how to do it, at the same time as improving other financial literacy.
Mobile devices are certainly common, though. So why not meet kids where they're at? There are quite a few apps aimed at the younger set that teach good financial literacy fundamentals. This is something that's more important than ever, as the United States lags badly behind the world's other leading economies in adult financial literacy. It's not any easier now that cash is being supplanted by instant electronic payments.
Budgeting, building savings, understanding debt or money and investing are critical skills for youth. The apps can help with all of these financial literacy skills and more. Money management is on skill needed in life, and it can also help break a cycle of poverty. There are even ways for low income families to save money, and smartphone apps assist there too.
Teach financial literacy to kids using these smart phone apps
The following apps can all help to cement fundamental money management concepts for kids age 4 to 18. They may be available for both iPhone and/or Android, and either parents or the kid can download them. Many of these financial literacy apps are also free to use or download.
Banzai! (Web Browser)
Skills Taught: Budgeting, Credit, Financial planning, Income, Risk management
Banzai! is a free, comprehensive course designed to walk young people through the various financial scenarios they will encounter as they transition into adulthood. It is available on your computer or laptop.
It's divided into three separate modules: one for kids in the elementary school age range (Banzai Junior), one for the "middle school" or junior high range (Banzai Teen) and one for high school students (Banzai Plus). Each module covers financial literacy concepts appropriate to that age range, rooting lessons in the types of resources and spending interests each group would be expected to have. Elementary schoolers learn about saving coins in their piggy bank, middle schoolers learn how to manage a limited allowance and high schoolers learn about part-time jobs and expenses like car insurance.
Banzai! mixes straightforward coursework with games and simulations that require participants to make decisions and balance limited resources. This financial literacy app is sponsored by a network of banks around the nation and is completely free, without the ads and micro-transaction upgrades that can be distracting in some other apps.
Bite Club (Web Browser, Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Budgeting, Credit use, Retirement planning
Bite Club teaches budgeting and spending through the creative tack of having players manage a nightclub. It isn't just any old nightclub, though; it's a club by and for vampires!
The immortal vampire thing is more than just a gimmick to stand out, it's a conceptual framework that gets kids thinking about managing money over the long term. The game eases you in with an initial mode similar to the popular game Diner Dash, where you focus on making customers at the club happy. You then move into the financial management portion, where you have to balance business expenses with paying off the student loans and credit card purchases you're carrying as well as putting something away for retirement in Transylvania.
Celebrity Calamity (iOS)
Skills Taught: Budgeting, Relative costs, Interest
Kids are often heavily influenced by their favorite celebrities, but don't have a good idea of what their lifestyles really cost. Use their love of celebrities as a tool for teaching financial literacy. Celebrity Calamity, from the same team that made Bite Club, helps to bridge that knowledge gap while also teaching students how to balance a budget and handle credit card interest payments.
Students take charge of the life of a fictional celebrity, booking lucrative gigs for them and then helping them successfully complete them. You'll also help them make good life decisions as they shop and handle their monthly bills.
Chore Bank (iOS)
Skills Taught: Income, Money management, Interest
Price: $1.99 base; extra features unlocked for a $1.99 per six months subscription
Chore Bank is a very straightforward chore management app that allows parents to create a list of chores with dollar values attached to them. Parents can withdraw and deposit to the child's virtual account. A list of consequences can also be attached, allowing children to pick something like doing an extra chore or being grounded for a day.
A one-time payment gets you the base version, which is fully functional. An optional subscription to Chore Bank Pro adds some conveniences like more list sorting options, account sharing between parents and automatic text message reminders.
Current (Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Budgeting, Debit card use, Income
Current is more than just an app, it's an FDIC-insured checking account for teens. It encourages saving, investing, and other financial tools for building wealth. Teens get a debit card tied to their account, which parents have control over. Parents have access to all of the account activity and can set limits on spending amounts and purchase categories. They can also block purchases from particular stores or certain types of products.
Income from an allowance or chores can be set up in the style of a regular direct deposit paycheck, helping to familiarize teens with this process before they get their first job.
Gen I Revolution (Web Browser, Facebook)
Skills Taught: Budgeting, Credit use
Gen I Revolution casts players as secret agent operatives fighting the "Murktide", a wave of spooky confusion causing people to make poor financial decisions. They'll go through 16 in-depth missions that each last for about half an hour or so. Objectives include building a 401(k) plan, laying out a long-term career plan and tackling credit card debt.
The game was designed to be used in classrooms, but anyone can sign up to play for fun through the website or Facebook.
Motion Math: Cupcake! and Motion Math: Pizza! (iOS)
Skills Taught: Running a business, Budgeting, Basic math
Price: $4.99 each
The Motion Math games teach kids about budgeting, income and money math by having them run the food-based business of their choice. These games go really in-depth, having kids design their own cupcakes and pizza based on market preferences. In addition to managing business expenses, players have to figure out the optimal price point for their products and determine when to grow their business with delivery services and new locations.
These games do ask a one-time price of $4.99, but that means that they are not monetized with distracting ads and tempting paid upgrades.
Peter Pig's Money Counter (Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Currency denominations
Developed by Visa as an educational freebie, Peter Pig's Money Counter guides younger children through a progressive series of challenges that teach them about the different values of coins and how to add them together. It is also good for learning about credit card and debt, which is a key financial literacy tool for the younger generation to learn.
In addition to learning about coin values, the game provides little factoids about how currency is made and its history. The estimated age range for this is four to seven, but some children may need to be a little older before they fully grasp the concept of adding coin values up.
Renegade Buggies (Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Grocery shopping
Renegade Buggies is a free financial literacy application racing game that mixes fun reflex-testing action with basic grocery shopping skills. Players start out by racing down the road in their super-charged buggy, collecting coupons and coins to use at the store while dodging obstacles. They will eventually end up at a Dollar General store (the sponsors of the game), where they use their accumulated items to try to complete their grocery list. The goal is to save as much money as possible, so it's important for players to compare prices and keep an eye on their coupons.
Rento (Web Browser, Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Currency denominations, Investment, Equity
Price: Free with in-app purchases (extra boards and characters)
Monopoly has served as an introduction to the ideas of investment and building equity for decades. Strangely enough, it's hard to play it on mobile devices. Parker Brothers has approved several versions over the years, but nearly all have ended up being pulled from app stores after a short amount of time for one reason or another.
Rento is a very close substitute; basically the generic brand version of Monopoly. Kids can play by themselves offline or online with two to four friends.
Savings Spree (iOS)
Skills Taught: Relative costs, Long-term cumulative costs, Importance of savings
Savings Spree has been showered in awards from various parenting and technology publications, and for good reason. It meets kids on their level to explain concepts like the accumulating cost of small luxury purchases (like daily soda or junk food), saving for emergencies and how small savings can quickly add up to enough for big purchases.
The recommended minimum age is seven. Kids play all sorts of little games that ask them to make decisions about spending, saving or investing.
Shopular (Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Comparison shopping, Coupon use
Though it's not aimed specifically at kids, Shopular is a good app to introduce to those who are beginning to have an income and make independent decisions about what they buy. It as a good budgeting application for smartphone. The app delivers up-to-date deal and coupon notifications from various stores, giving you a convenient menu to quickly comparison-shop with. It's a good way to introduce kids to the idea of browsing different stores for different prices and looking for savings from temporary promotions and coupons.
Stockpile (iOS, Android)
Skills Taught: Investment, Business structures
Price: Free to use, 0.99 per trade
Investing is one of the hardest financial concepts to teach young people about due to the abstract nature and complicated terms. But starting early is so critical. Stockpile's ingenious insight is to very visibly connect the brands that kids and young adults care about to parent companies; for example, the Wonder Woman movies to Warner Brothers or the Halo games to Microsoft.
Stockpile allows kids to trade in low-cost fractional stocks of many major companies for a fee of 99 cents per exchange. The app has strong parental controls that can be set to make sure mom and dad sign off on every trade, and tutorial lessons to guide complete newcomers through the basics and risks of investing. A parent must also sign on for a minor to be able to create an account.
Thrive n' Shine (Android, iOS)
Skills Taught: Credit use, Budgeting, Retirement planning
Thrive n' Shine is a free app for Android and iPhone that has students create a virtual avatar, then drops them into a colorful game world that has them navigate real-life financial challenges and decisions while also playing fun mini-games. The game hits all the major financial decision points such as using credit, paying taxes, saving for major purchases like cars and even setting something aside for retirement.