Cash & Kids: Everything You Need to Teach Your Kids About Finance
Teaching your children basic financial literacy pays serious dividends throughout their lives. It helps them avoid debt, practice responsible budgeting and can even help them pay for college and retirement. In this month’s issue, we’ll explore the best ages to teach your children important financial skills, the best apps and tools for learning about money, and even the best games to make financial learning less of a chore.
According to T. Rowe Price, 75% of parents pay their children an allowance, on average, $19.30 per week. I don’t know about you, but if I had received that much in allowance as a kid, I would have thought I was rich! Of course, $19.30 in yesterday’s dollars would have been worth around $185 in today’s dollars when I was growing up! That would have been serious money, but certainly a much higher percentage of my folks’ disposable income than the $19.30 would be today.
An allowance—if employed correctly—can be a great way to teach your children about money management, without a lot of risks. But if not used wisely, allowances can teach your children the wrong things about money. Here are some pros and cons of giving your child an allowance, according to GoHenry.com:
- It teaches children about the value of money.
- It can help children to learn about saving.
- It can teach children how to budget effectively.
- It can lead to children spending unnecessarily.
- It can create a sense of entitlement in children.
- It can be used as a tool for bribery by parents.
- It can cause arguments if children do not receive the same amount of pocket money as their friends.
Our family never had regular allowances; we were tossed a dollar every now and then. But we really weren’t much different than our friends. Today, that has certainly changed.
But what has not changed is that parents still do not educate their children about finances. ING Direct reports that 87% of teens don’t have much—or any—financial knowledge. And even if they’ve had some financial education, Anuuity.org notes that 75% of them lack confidence in that knowledge.
A 2018 National Financial Capability Study, found that “49% of respondents who received more than 10 hours of financial education report spending less than they earn, compared to 36% among those who received less than 10 hours.”
So, if you do offer an allowance, that invites the perfect opportunity to share some meaningful financial education—and goals—with your children or grandchildren. And if you don’t, you can still make sure your children have the knowledge to begin their adulthood on a solid financial foundation. You can start with the tooth fairy, or birthday/holiday money gifts, and then progress to more age-appropriate financial education as your children and grandchildren grow up.
Otherwise, your child could become one of these statistics, according to Annuity.org:
- Around the world, just 33% of people are financially literate. The following picture depicts this sad state of affairs, worldwide.
- 25% of Americans say they don’t have anyone they can ask for trusted financial guidance.
- 23% of U.S. adults ages 18 to 29 have credit card debt that’s over 90 days overdue. And College Finance reports that the average card balance for students is $3,280.
- Americans owed over $800 billion in credit card debt as of Q1 2022. (I just updated that number—with data from the Federal Reserve. It is now $986 billion).
- Only 44.27% of Americans know how much money they would have if they invested $100 at the age of 21, using average market returns.
- Approximately 46.33% know how to set personal financial goals.
- Just 55.89% could guess the first step toward building a good credit score.
- 20% of Americans don’t track their finances at all.
- Nearly 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings or nothing at all.
And even more worrisome are statistics from Balancingeverything.com, which states that 25% of people over 65 “are the least familiar with handling their money.” That’s incredibly sad, especially when you consider the average American has $65,000 in retirement savings, and the mean Social Security payment as of February 2023, was $1,693.88.
I used a website to do a little calculation. If you withdrew $1,000 per month to supplement your Social Security check (which probably won’t be enough to live on), using a 9% annual investment return (the average market return, historically), your $65,000 in savings will last seven years, three months. Of course, if your investment returns on your savings is less than that, your money will last a shorter time.
Bottom line: you need to start saving and investing at an early age, and that means your children need to gain financial knowledge now—starting at a very young age.
Start Young—Introduce Your Children to the Value of Money
I was fortunate to have a mother who was financially astute. Although I didn’t receive an allowance, I always sat with my mother when she was handling money, and before I opened my first checking account, she taught me all the ins and outs. But that was only because I was interested; my brother and sisters weren’t.
I understand that parents—and their kids—are super busy today. Between two- and three-income homes, children who are involved in sports or the arts, and loads of homework, it’s not easy to find the time. And like many parental tasks, financial education has been mostly turned over to schools. However, that’s not working out so well, either. According to the Council for Economic Education, last year, just 23 states required students to take a high school class in personal finance in order to graduate.
When I was in school, that wasn’t even an elective class. Those classes started about 30 or so years ago, and I’ve been a guest speaker at many high school personal finance classes since then.
But even if your child’s school offers such a class, it’s just not enough. If you don’t teach your children about finances, you are setting them up for some serious disappointments and hardships down the road.
This pictorial is an easy way to begin talking about money with your children:
The good thing is that you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” There are amazing programs and apps in the marketplace (some are free!) that can help you with this important learning.
And I’m going to share some of those with you. But first, let’s break down children’s money education needs by age, so you can see the building blocks of a great financial learning program.
3-5 years; your child can start learning about coins and notes. I know, from experience, that coins are not that easy to teach. I tried sorting coins with my niece when she was five. At first, nothing I did seemed to work. But once I took her to the store to show her how many coins she needed to purchase certain items, things became much easier!
The experts have a better idea, recommending a clear jar to save coins. As they add more, they can see their money grow, and explaining how much each coin adds to the total helps them visualize the coin’s value.
5-7 years; children should know their coins by now. You can also teach them how to create and monitor simple financial records. It’s a great period to show your children how you earn your money (e.g., Take Your Child to Work Day), and how much you earn every payday. And lastly, this is a great time to decode needs versus wants.
7-9 years; you can introduce debit and credit cards, as well as other non-cash paying methods (which are mostly what kids use today, anyway); help them open a savings account (make it a habit to take your child when you do your banking); discuss the risk of too much debt; why they will have to have a job. Lastly, it’s important to model charitable behavior through your volunteer work and contributions, so that when your child becomes self-sufficient, he or she will value giving to those less fortunate.
9-11 years; if a vacation is in your plans, this is a good opportunity to teach your child about budgeting and planning a trip, easy foreign exchange calculations, and safekeeping valuables during the holiday. This is also a good age range for discussing interest earned and paid, as well as taxes (you might as well depress them at an early age)!
11-14 years; the experts say that at this age, children should be introduced to credit, insurance, risk/reward, fraud, and understanding simple financial statements. (This will come in handy as they begin to prepare for their college years).
For the previous two categories, child educators add that demonstrating opportunity cost works well with these age groups, showing the child that if they spend all their money on one item, such as the latest fashion, they may not have enough to buy that birthday present for which they’ve been saving.
These are also the right ages for paying “commissions” instead of allowances for assigned household chores.
Lastly, from ages seven to eleven is a prime time for teaching avoidance of impulse buys. Some people never learn this. I’ve known folks that love to shop and who just can’t say no. They either devote half of their lives to returning stuff they don’t need, or spend way above their means which causes buyer’s remorse and significant long-term financial trouble.
The best way to stem impulse buying is to teach your child to wait and think about the object they want to buy; often, a day later, they won’t even remember why they were so keen to purchase it!
Teens; this age group is entranced with social media, where it seems everyone is spending a lot of money on a bunch of stuff—expensive cars, makeup, video games, or the latest fashion. Your teen needs to understand that “things” don’t bring contentment. And a good lesson to learn is that it’s a lot more fun to plan for those big expenditures; that way, they can daydream about them, work toward their goal by steadily saving, and enjoy the journey as much as the final purchase.
I remember planning and saving for a trip to Hawaii. This took place over a year and a half. There was no internet back then, so I closeted myself—for weeks and months—with AAA books, travel guides, frequent flyer information, and coupon books. I really couldn’t say which was more fun—the planning or the actual trip!
This is also the right age for thinking about and beginning financial planning and saving for those nearing college years. You’ll want to talk about jobs, how to avoid student loans (if they can), and college savings accounts.
Many parents do try to teach their children how to save by helping them open their first bank account. And this is the perfect time for your teen to get their first checking account.
Milleniummoney.com reports that the following banks have the best deals for kids:
13 Best Bank Accounts for Kids
From big-name traditional banks to online options and kid-only platforms, keep reading for a look at the best options to help your kids get off to the best financial start possible.
1. Chase Bank: Best Overall
2. Axos Bank: Best Online Bank
3. Alliant Credit Union: Best Credit Union
4. Capital One: Best Checking Account
5. Greenlight: Best Prepaid Debit Card
6. FamZoo: Best Educational Resources
7. GoHenry: Best For Young Kids
8. PNC Bank: Best Savings Account
9. Wells Fargo: Best for Young Adults
10. Copper: Best for Teens
11. Bank of America: Best for Students
12. TD Bank: Best Customer Service
13. Jassby: Best for Financial Literacy
But it is also important to not only show your children how to save but to explain the intricacies of spending, too.
So, sit down and create a simple budget with your teen. There will be many spending temptations ahead: an automobile, insurance, college, entertainment, clothing, and school expenses for which you may not want to pay. They need to have a plan for their money. Your child should list all their income and expenses—fixed and variable, and include a plan for budgeting savings and investing. Some of the apps I mention later in this article also offer budgeting help.
You’ll also want to teach them the danger of credit cards because you can rest assured, once they turn 18, the credit card offers will be piling up for your teen—most of which you may never see.
This is a good opportunity to discuss debit cards with your child, as their bank will most likely also offer one. But both debit and credit cards have pros and cons.
- Convenience and flexibility to handle emergencies.
- Control. Parents can easily monitor how their child is spending money.
- Experience in handling credit and checking accounts. It’s better to make some crazy spending mistakes when young when a lesson can be learned.
- Learn independence.
- Ease of spending.
- Lessons not learned. Parents need to monitor for over- or inappropriate spending.
Assist your teen with finding a job. Most of them won’t have a clue. So, introduce them to networking with family friends who may own their own businesses, local summer jobs, interning, and volunteering.
Or they can start their own business. Businesses like babysitting, yardwork, house sitting, dog walking, crafting (via Etsy for instance), garage sales, shoveling driveways, chores, washing cars, collecting recyclables or tutoring are all suitable businesses for kids.
My brother and I sold vegetables at a roadside stand our dad built, mowed neighbor’s lawns, made potholders to get Christmas money, and I even altered clothes for my older sister’s co-workers. If your teens find a job using one of these methods, it will most likely give them real business experience that they won’t find slinging hamburgers.
It’s an unfortunate fact, as I mentioned earlier, that 87% of teens admit to having little or no financial literacy skills. And yet, they are near that crucial moment—applying to colleges—a time when they need tremendous financial knowledge. Many never receive it; they don’t know where to find it, and there is little help. When I was in high school, there was no internet, so I had to depend on the library and my guidance counselor to help me find a way to go to college. I have to tell you, that guidance counselor was useless, and I hear from friends that today’s counselors aren’t any better. Fortunately, if students want to quickly improve their financial skills, they have a few choices:
Here are some free ideas collected from Inside Higher Ed from higher education professionals:
1. Zogo covers a wide range of financial topics, the Zogo app incentivizes students to keep learning by giving them a cash reward.
Students download the app, create an account, and can play through educational modules, including lessons on credit scores, investing, job and house hunting, and basic financial skills. Modules are quick, giving users snippets of information.
Students earn credits, called pineapples, as they play and can cash them out for gift cards or donate their money to a charitable cause.
2. The World of Money is a video application that teaches financial literacy to both children and young adults.
Content ranges from the history of money to saving money, budgeting, and using credit cards. After downloading the free app, users select which lesson they’d like to learn, watch a three-minute course video, and then complete a quiz to demonstrate mastery of the content. The app also has flashcards to teach financial concepts.
3. Investmate is for students looking to level up their financial literacy beyond basic saving and spending, Investmate teaches trading to beginners.
The app provides courses, strategy tips, quizzes, term definitions and other resources. The app can be tailored to the user, providing quizzes and videos based on personal interest. Lessons, similar to Zogo and The World of Money’s, are short, around three minutes long.
The app also has a stock market simulator, which gives students the opportunity to demo buying and selling shares of different products.
4. iGrad partners with universities to create tailored financial literacy information for students.
The site offers education on managing money, creating a budget, taking out loans and planning for retirement, along with a scholarship search function and other financial aid information and tax information for current students.
iGrad tailors content to users with a survey to understand a student’s situation, as well as giving more personalized information.
5. Spent is not an app; instead, it is a powerful online game that demonstrates how individuals with a limited income choose daily where to spend their money.
In the game, the user starts off with $1,000 and a minimum-wage job and works to survive for the month off the money they earn while facing dilemmas about health, work, and other personal expenses.
The project, a collaboration between the Urban Ministries of Durham in North Carolina and media agency McKinney, teaches players about the challenges of poverty but can also remind students that saving and spending wisely is not as easy as it seems.
Additionally, if your student isn’t up to par on the reality of college and life finances, encourage him or her to “pick the brains” of your successful friends and family, read as much as they can, and investigate all options available to them in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans (but only if they have to). Obviously, there are many more websites devoted to all three; this is just a sampling.
Investing is the Key to Financial Independence for Your Children
Get your child on the path to saving and investing by recommending that they set aside a little bit, maybe 10%, of their income and of all the money gifts they receive from family members over the years.
Then demonstrate the amazing nature of compound interest (accruing interest on your principle and earned interest), and how quickly their savings will grow—if left alone. They may not be able to conceptualize the amount of money they will have at age 65 with a great saving and investing plan. So, instead, focus on smaller goals (such as a new video game, their first car, spring break with their friends, saving enough for their college meal plan, etc.) Yes, they are still saving for a spending goal, but at least they will know that the more they put in and the longer they leave it there, the fatter their savings will grow.
Introduce your teen to investing. A savings account is great, but it won’t grow fast enough, for you or your teen. Your child may become bored, seeing a 0.25% savings rate (the current rate on a savings account, according to Bankrate.com). His $100 would grow by just 25 cents in a year. Instead, if he just bought an S&P 500 Index fund, he could—on average—gain 9%, growing his account by $9 in the first year.
There are lots of ways to get your teen on the road to investing. Let’s look at a few.
Custodial Accounts allow you to control the investments in the account on behalf of your child, until they reach 18 or 21 years of age, depending on the state. Custodial accounts include the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA).
When my nieces and nephew were born, I was flabbergasted by all the gifts they received for every occasion—clothes they quickly grew out of and so many toys that went untouched, and were eventually given away.
Instead of adding to the unappreciated piles, I decided to open UGMA accounts for my young relatives. Every Christmas, birthday, or other special occasion, I deposited money in each of their accounts. I opened the accounts through the National Association of Investor Corp. (now Better Investing), which, at that time, offered fractional share programs in more than 150 stocks. I bought McDonald’s (MCD) stock for them, in the hope that it would whet their interest in investing. I don’t really know if that goal was accomplished, but they sure enjoyed the hamburger coupons in McDonald’s annual report!
I was the custodian until they were each 18, and then I turned over the accounts to them. None of the accounts were worth a fortune, but it sure helped with their initial college expenses.
Here is the way taxation is handled for Custodial Accounts:
Child under 19 (2023)
First $1,150 of unearned income is exempt from federal income tax
Next $1,250 of unearned income is taxed at child’s tax rate
Any unearned income over $2,500 is taxed at parents’ tax rate
This is a custodial account that is an IRA, either a Traditional or Roth IRA. The custodian (usually the parent) holds and manages the account for the benefit of a minor with earned income, until the child reaches age 18 (or 25 in some states).
The funds may be used for expenses such as college or a home purchase. The contributions are the same for custodial IRAs as they are for regular adult IRAs. For 2023, the total contributions can’t be more than: $6,500.
529 Savings Accounts
I don’t need to tell you that the cost of college has accelerated beyond the bounds for many parents today. As you can see from the following chart, courtesy of U.S. News, a private college education now averages more than $44,000 per year—more than double the rate of 20 years ago.
Those statistics show you how essential it is to start saving and investing early for this important goal. And a 529 plan is a great way to do that.
It is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed especially for qualified education expenses, including tuition, fees, room and board, and related costs.
When created, plans were limited to postsecondary education costs, they were expanded to cover K–12 education in 2017 and apprenticeship programs in 2019. And the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act) and SECURE 2.0 of 2022, allowed 529s to pay off up to $10,000 in student loans and fund a Roth IRA. If the account is at least 15 years old, this latest provision allows rolling over up to $35,000 of unspent funds in a 529 account into a Roth IRA account, beginning January 1, 2024.
There are two primary types of 529 plans.
Savings plans are tax-deferred, and withdrawals are tax-free if they’re used for qualified education expenses.
These are the plans of choice for most parents. You contribute money, and then choose from a pre-set selection of investment options. Some of the plans offer target-date funds, which invest more conservatively as your child nears college entry.
Prepaid tuition plans allow the account owner to pay current tuition rates for future attendance at designated colleges and universities (they don’t cover K-12 tuition). And as you can see from the rising costs in the above graph, that decision could save you thousands of dollars for your child’s education.
These plans are not offered by all states. When the plans were first created, 22 states offered them. As of 2022, they are available in only nine states:
|States With Prepaid Tuition Plans
|Name of Plan
|Florida Prepaid College Plan
|Maryland Prepaid College Trust
|MEFA U.Plan Prepaid Tuition Program
|Although technically not a 529 plan, this plan works much the same way.
|Michigan Education Trust
|Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Savings (MPACT) Program
|Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program
|PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan
|Either the contributor or the beneficiary should be a resident of Pennsylvania.
|Texas Tuition Promise Fund
|This plan’s predecessor, the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan—formerly the Texas Tomorrow Fund—is closed to new enrollment.
|Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET)
They are also offered at some private higher education institutions, such as Brandeis University, American University, Johns Hopkins University, Tulane University, and Duke University, according to Affordablecollegesonline.org, allowing you to determine your child’s tuition ahead of time. Please check with the individual colleges or your financial advisor to get the latest updates on these plans.
529 savings plans cover the costs of room and board but prepaid plans do not. Additionally, savings plans can be used at almost any eligible institution but prepaid plans may be restricted to certain colleges. The last difference is that prepaid tuition plans are not guaranteed by the federal government or some states.
Better Investing offers a fantastic way to start an investment club. Of course, the monies will need to be handled by an adult, but it’s a great way to jump-start a child’s interest in investing. It works sort of like a mutual fund. Your child can invite his friends to join, and then, as members, they pool their funds to purchase fractional shares through a brokerage such as one of these:
The best brokers for fractional share investing, according to Bankrate.com, are Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Interactive Brokers, Robinhood, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade, Merrill Edge, Vanguard and Tastytrade.
Some of these brokerages charge zero commissions. You’ll need to check with each brokerage to find out if they allow investment club accounts and what they charge for trades and maintaining the account.
Dividends are reinvested in the investment clubs, allowing your children’s money to grow even faster.
I’ve formed four investment clubs over the years: women only, two co-ed clubs, and one for gifted children. The children were a treat, as they had grown up with computers, so the technology used was not off-putting. And many of them were from families that had a tradition of investing and had already exposed their children to that world.
Kids learn fast, and when they can see their money growing monthly (in good markets!), they become very interested in learning more.
And one advantage of using Better Investing’s tools: The program is geared for long-term investing (not trading) and offers exceptional education for beginners, including learning how to monitor their portfolio.
The Best Money Apps for Kids
Kids are addicted to cell phone apps, so why not give them a few that will help increase their financial education? The Educational App Store has rated the following as the best money apps for kids:
1. Kids Finance
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
Kids Finance teaches kids about finance and money matters. Parents use an in-app token called Ki-Fi to pay allowances and reward completed chores, and parents set the conversion between Ki-Fi and real money. The app has an option to combine it with a payment card with parental safeguarding options.
Price: Free to use
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
RoosterMoney teaches kids to keep track of how much money they have earned from their parents and how much money is still owed to them.
Kids set savings goals and then see, through easy-to-use charts, how close they are to reaching those goals. The app includes a so-called “safe” option where kids can send money to a virtual safe, thereby teaching them to distinguish between short-term and long-term savings goals.
This virtual money tracker lets parents automate allowance money to ensure it’s delivered on a specific day. The app can also issue stars when chores are completed. With spend, save, and give pots, kids can make decisions about what they’ll do with the money or the stars they’ve earned.
Price: Free 1-month trial, $2.49/mo after
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
Gohenry offers users a website, mobile app and debit card parents can control. GoHenry is a debit card and app in one. Parents can load up the debit card, automate an allowance, transfer extra money, and set rules related to how kids can earn and spend money. In real-time, they can follow how much money their kids are spending. Kids can monitor their spending, set savings goals, and donate money. And don’t worry about overdrafts. Kids can spend no more than what’s on the card.
Price: Free 1-month trial, $3.99/mo after
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
This banking app features include a personalized debit card and direct debit for allowance.
Greenlight offers flexible parental controls for each child and real-time notifications of each transaction made. Greenlight is the only debit card letting you choose the exact stores where kids can spend on the card. Further, parents can open a custodial brokerage account to get their kids investing in stocks and index funds for the first time.
Price: Free 1-month trial, $4.99/month after
This app functions like a virtual piggy bank where kids save for a special purchase. They can post pictures of it and keep track of how close they are to making that purchase. They open virtual accounts, with unique PIN numbers, to give them a sense of responsibility for and ownership of their money. As kids get closer to their goal, parents can contribute virtual money to help them achieve that goal.
Price: Free with in-app purchases
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
A great app for older teens, FamZoo assigns a purpose to every single dollar your child earns and spends, while also creating incentives for them and helping track savings progress.
This app functions as a virtual bank. Parents are the “bankers,” and the kids are the “customers.” The whole family is connected, so it’s easy to move money around. Aside from teaching kids how to save money and track their spending over time, parents can transfer real money to them with prepaid and reloadable debit cards. Other useful features include the ability to give your kids loans, and then teach them how to pay back those loans in installments.
Price: $2.50 to $5.99 per month
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
BusyKid offers pretty much every financial feature you could need when trying to teach your teenager(s) about money. From earning and saving to budgeting and investing, BusyKid’s platform handles it all. Plus, you can assign age-appropriate chores and set up an allowance.
With the BusyKid prepaid card, you can let your child spend anywhere Visa is accepted. Along the way, you can watch this activity and even get push notifications. Plus, BusyKid is the only kids’ app that allows children to invest in real stocks with their allowance.
Price: Free to use, for a prepaid Visa card it’ll be $7.99/year per card
(Android, iPhone, iPad)
Stockpile allows kids to track their investments at any time, and you can set a list of approved stocks for them to trade. Instead of having to buy an entire share, Stockpile lets your kids invest any amount they want. They can start investing with as little as $5!
Stockpile is an app-based brokerage that aims to make investing in the stock market less intimidating, more accessible and engaging for kids. The app lets kids share a wish list of stocks with family and friends.
Price: Free trial, $4.95 per month after
Virtually track your children’s allowance and spending with Allowance+, with the ability to assign chores and tasks or set up recurring allowance payments. The app is free to use but you can also pay a small monthly fee if you want to network between multiple devices for multiple children.
Price: Free to try
Fun Money Games for Kids
Children learn by doing, and if you can teach them some solid money concepts in a fun game, they’ll learn even faster. Some of my best memories are playing Monopoly with my family. I have to say, I was pretty good at accumulating real estate (maybe that stoked my initial interest in owning a real estate company?). And my brother was really great at having the most money at the end of the game.
But there are hundreds of money games available for children. The Balance.com rates these games as the current best:
The 7 Best Board Games for Teaching Kids About Money
Best for Math Skills: Buy It Right is a popular game among teachers and homeschoolers. It exercises lots of different math skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and decimals. An adult (or older student with the required skills) should be present to ensure the math is done correctly. Buy It Right is intended for 4th through 6th graders but can be tailored to make it easier for younger children.
Best Classic Game: Pay Day only takes 15 minutes or so to play a round, a stark contrast to Monopoly’s seemingly endless gameplay. In those 15 minutes, players will earn a paycheck, pay outstanding bills, and have the opportunity to make deals on property and earn money from it (passive income for the win!).
Best Game for Teens: Thrive Time for Teens takes players through different stages of life and money. From being a student with a part-time job to investing and starting a business, players will learn about accumulating debt or being patient and paying with cash. Thrive Time is the teen version of Rich Dad Poor Dad’s Cashflow; however, they are not made by the same company.
Best for Teaching Debt Freedom: Act Your Wage, by Dave Ramsey, teaches the basic money management principles he promotes. At the beginning of every Act Your Wage game, you will draw a life card and three debit cards and from there you roll a die and move around the board, facing life’s financial challenges. The goal, of course, is to eliminate debt, and players will follow Ramsey’s strategies and advice to do so.
Best for Learning Stocks: The Stock Exchange Game imagines that every trip around the board is one year in the life of the player, investing along the way before retirement. Take big risks early and then switch to safer buys late as retirement approaches. The Stock Exchange Game includes three modes of play, depending on how complicated you want the trading to get. Start with stocks, ETFs, and Bonds; step up to mergers, acquisitions, and options; or form into teams, and play the basic or advanced versions. The instructions are easy to follow, and the game is best suited for ages 10 and up.
Best Coin Counting: Money Bags features huge dollar signs as the spaces and lots of mechanical looking cartoon graphics (think “handy helpers” from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). Players will learn coin identification fast with this quick and fun game. There’s lots of counting and exchanging of money involved. It is recommended for ages 7 and up, but with little help kids, 5 and up would enjoy playing, too.
Best for Ages Five and Up: The Allowance Game is designed for children as young as five. After a few rounds, kids will become familiar with counting money and saving it, too. The board is full of different chores to do to earn cash, so expect the kids to get lots of ideas about doing work around the house. Winning is entirely up to chance based on the roll of the dice. Games can be won in 15 to 30 minutes. The Allowance Game teaches more than money, though. It also teaches social skills and has spaces on the board like paying a library fine or for a broken window.
Additionally, our government offers free educational resources for teaching your children about money:
NCUA Games (mycreditunion.gov) offers World of Cents to teach your children about earning, saving, and spending through a match game with coins, and Test Your Money Memory is a match game that pairs United States coins and currency with the appropriate president. Hit the Road is a game about earning and spending using a trip across America.
The U.S. Mint (usmint.gov) has free games and activities, from math games to coin scavenger hunts.
The FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum (Money Smart Catalog) features modules written for specific age groups. It is targeted toward teachers and schools, but parents will find it useful also. The game also references children’s books about money.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB – consumerfinance.gov) offers the Money as You Grow program that teaches age-appropriate financial milestones. It also lists books that would be helpful.
The 6 Best Video Games to Teach Kids about Money
Of course, most kids prefer video games, so Roostermoney.com has rated these money games as some of the best for kids:
Animal Crossing is suitable for kids aged three and up. It is good for mortgages and investing.
The game also teaches players about investment and speculation, via the turnip market, which takes place once a week in Animal Crossing. Players can buy turnips at the market price, then try to profit from their purchase by selling those turnips later in the week. However, prices can rise and fall, just like in real life, meaning a hasty turnip investment may not necessarily pay off.
Island Saver is also suitable for kids aged three and up. Created by NatWest, it features kids wandering around a colorful desert island, clearing away nasty plastic waste, earning coins, and rescuing the island’s “bankimals”—crazy creatures that act like living piggy banks. In the game, gamers can also explore jungles, deserts, and volcanoes, help kiwis find their missing nest eggs, and collect coins to learn all about spending and saving.
AdVenture Capitalist is suitable for primary school kids and lets players begin by selling lemonade, before moving on to purchase other drinks stands, employ managers, and draw in investors
Roblox is suitable for kids aged seven and up. It’s more a gaming platform than a single game, Roblox does encourage its players to buy, sell and make virtual items to decorate their avatars, using the platform’s currency, Robux. Not all players can trade; a paid membership is required for that privilege.
Stardew Valley is suitable for primary and secondary school kids and is good for building up businesses. Players take control of an overgrown, dilapidated farm in this game, fixing it up, before planting crops and raising livestock. They can also cook, mine, brew beer, socialize, get married and have children. However, a big focus is on getting the farm running well, investing in the right fertilizer, animals, and plants, and selling the produce for a profit.
The Sims is suitable for kids aged 12 and up and is good for budgeting and homemaking. It teaches players the basics of putting together a place to live, as well as budgeting for purchases. Characters can even get jobs, and different professions bring with them different salaries.
Bottom line, there is a lot of financial literacy help out there, and the sooner you get your child on that path, the better.
Many parents neglect their financial education teaching; don’t be one of those. Be open and discuss money with your kids—from an early age. And make sure you model the right financial behavior—saving, investing, staying away from unreasonable debt, budgeting, and using credit wisely.
If you do those two things, your children will undoubtedly build a bright financial future for themselves.