April might be most commonly associated with lighthearted jokers and heavy rain showers, but it's also Financial Literacy Month. Presented by the nonprofit Money Management International, Financial Literacy Month aims to help people achieve financial wellness through education.
If there's one group of people that might not immediately take a liking to that goal, it's kids. The good news is there are plenty of apps and other digital tools that visualize and game-ify the financial world so parents can more easily teach their kids how to successfully manage money.
PiggyBot keeps things classic and familiar for younger kids by taking the form of a digital piggy bank. Timeless exterior aside, the free iOS kids app has some distinctly modern touches under the hood.
Piggybot encourages children ages 4-8 to create a virtual account — complete with their own PIN number — to lend them a sense of responsibility and ownership of their funds. Kids set a goal for an item they'd like to buy and, when allowance time rolls around, parents add virtual funds to the goal amount.
Kids get the visual satisfaction of watching their account numbers go up while secretly learning the value of saving toward a goal. PiggyBot is not actually tied to any bank accounts so, when the goal is reached, parents paying up is all on the honor system.
Available on iOS, Android, Windows and Amazon platforms, Bankaroo is one of the best money apps for kids ages 6-11.
Think of Bankaroo as a full-fledged bank simulation wrapped in a colorful, game-like package. Using the free app, kids can create virtual bank accounts in order to keep up with their available funds, allowance income and savings goals. The free kids app even incorporates semi-realistic bank features — for example, allowances can be set up as recurring payments. Bankaroo also doles out fun virtual badges as rewards.
Bankaroo works great for multiple children, making it ideal for large families or classroom settings.
The BusyKid website costs $1 per month to use, but it makes up for its modest price tag with plenty of unique money management features.
Using the BusyKid website, parents add chores — which they can customize or choose from age-group-oriented suggestions — for their kids to complete. Kids access the website to indicate when they've completed each chore. After confirming completion, parents can send their kids small payments to real-life holding accounts from an FDIC-insured bank.
From there, kids can track their earnings and choose whether to spend their money on gift cards from companies like iTunes and Toys"R"Us or to buy and sell fractional shares of real stock — with their parent's approval, of course.
The Savings Spree app, which costs $5.99 in the App Store, embraces a gamier vibe to teach kids about money.
In Spree, kid players are contestants on a game show — hosted, naturally, by a talking cartoon pig. Kids begin the game show with a set amount of money that they can save, invest, spend or donate throughout the game. Each choice comes with a bite-sized mini-game in which kids can earn more or lose some of their money. Funds can even be affected by unexpected events, for better or worse. The game serves a sneaky way to teach children about the possible financial effects of their spending habits.
Savings Spree has garnered positive recognition from organizations like Children's Technology Review, the Parents' Choice Foundation and the National Parenting Publications Awards program.
FamZoo is a financial tracking app that uses real money to help improve the spending habits of kids of all ages.
The app helps prepare kids for the financial real world by serving as a self-contained bank and money tracker based around a shared online dashboard. Younger users can start with the basics of earning rewards and setting goals for chores. As kids age, you can work in more advanced features like penalties for missed work, parent-paid interest on savings, expense sharing, loans and contribution matching. FamZoo uses your choice of IOUs or prepaid cards to dole out the funds.
At subscription costs of $5.99 monthly (or less when paid for a block of time in advance), that's lots of real-world education for very little real-world risk.
Green$treets Unleash the Loot!
Among a digital cornucopia of free apps for kids, Green$treets Unleash the Loot! manages to stand out. Recommended for kids ages 5-8, the free app strives to teach kids to be money savvy as well as ecological responsibility.
Unleash the Loot! puts kids in charge of rescuing animals in the cartoon town of Green$treets. Kids must fund their animal-saving expeditions by planting gardens, building eco-friendly treehouses and tossing trash, all while keeping the globular purple mascot, Shmootz, at bay. Once the animals are safe, children must find ways to pay for their care, which helps teach budgeting, saving and spending skills. Unleash the Loot! is also one of few educational apps that encourage kids to make room in their budget for donating to charity.
Unleash the Loot! is Teachers With Apps (TWA) certified for bringing superior education to the mobile platform and displaying exemplary achievement in content, presentation, execution and overall user experience.
There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of middle ground between candy-colored financial apps for young kids and serious financial management apps for adults. That's where Toshl Finance comes in.
This finance management app looks a lot like your standard digital money manager for adults, but it packs some features that make it just right for the teen crowd. For example, the app puts a great deal of focus on analyzing spending habits, including how much has been spent and what it was spent on. The app also helps identify potential areas for savings.
Linked to a real bank account, Toshl provides lots of data visualizations to help young users easily see what's happening with their money. It also features a tip calculator, currency converter, bill organizer, receipt database and budget creator. Best of all, Toshl Finance is packed with friendly monsters that pop up with quirky budget tips and tricks to help keep the whole experience funky and fun.
The Toshl Finance app is available for free or $2.99 monthly (or $19.99 yearly) for its pro version.
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