Month: November 2022

FamZoo Review: Allowance and Kid Money Made Easy

FamZoo

FamZoo is a company/app that makes managing money for kids easy. I’ve heard about them for years at various financial conferences. I didn’t have kids, so I didn’t pay attention. I only thought that it had a funny name. FamZoo got a lot more interesting once my kids were old enough to learn how to manage their money.

When I started Kid Wealth earlier this year, I had planned to write about specific companies and apps. FamZoo was high on my list. I went to a personal finance conference, and the CEO of FamZoo, Bill Dwight, was at a booth promoting FamZoo. He gave me the complete backstory of the company. Here’s the short version. Dwight was a very successful Silicon Valley engineer who decided to start something new and different. He combined his passion for software engineering and children’s personal finance. The result was FamZoo.

What is FamZoo?

FamZoo is a completely family money management system. You can think of FamZoo as a combination of a bank and a prepaid debit card. It consists of a parent account and one or more child accounts. Each child account can be further subdivided into spending, saving, and charity. It makes giving allowances easy. I can also give kids money for doing odd jobs or extra chores.

Children can spend money using their FamZoo card. It’s better than a traditional bank because they don’t feel the money is locked up and inaccessible. It’s an excellent way to let kids make money mistakes.

There is no credit feature or way for kids to rack up overdraft fees. The accounts are FDIC-insured.

Why FamZoo?

The Power of Compound Interest

I’m a big believer in teaching kids about compound interest. Unfortunately, banks aren’t paying interest rates that kids will notice. That’s why we should steal an idea from Bank of Dad.

The Bank of Dad idea is that parents can pay better interest than banks. FamZoo is perfect for parent-paid interest. Parents can set up accounts that earn significant interest (paid by the parent, of course). I could give my child 2% interest a week if I wanted to. It may not sound like much, but it is 280% a year. I recommend that you read my Bank of Dad article for an idea of what may be appropriate.

My kids only earn interest in their savings accounts. They have a strong incentive to put money there instead of spending. However, when they want to make a purchase, the money has to be in their spending account. Parents need to approve transfers, but I don’t see myself rejecting too many of them.

We’ve only been using FamZoo a short time, but I think I’ll set it up so that the charity account will earn double interest.

Automating Your Child’s Allowance

I tried managing my kids’ allowance with cash. It was a miserable failure. I never had the exact number of one-dollar bills on hand. Many times, I simply forgot. My kids reminded me sometimes, but they often forgot as well.

Now, I set up a rule in the application, and the kids get money pushed from my parent account to their accounts.

There are good arguments to be made that kids should start with cash. However, the world has moved to digital payments and apps. They’ll eventually have to be comfortable with managing their money this way. It doesn’t hurt to start early.

Using the FamZoo Prepaid Card

When the kids want to purchase something, they simply bring their FamZoo debit card to the store. Most likely, they’ve watched adults swipe a credit card. They probably already know how it works. Kids can check their balances by using the FamZoo mobile app. It’s available for iOS on the Apple App Store and Android on Google Play.

Since my kids are only 8 and 10, they don’t have a mobile plan, but they have tablets and wifi-only phones. As they become teens, they’ll be able to manage their FamZoo accounts at a store.

One nice touch is that the FamZoo has the kids’ own name on them. Kids under thirteen also have the parent name on them.

Getting Started with FamZoo

It takes some time to get started with FamZoo. For me, it took three weeks. It can take two weeks to get the debit cards. After that, it took another few days to set up the external transfer from my bank (USAA). The banks must do their transfer stuff, which takes a few days.

While it’s a bit inconvenient, there are very good reasons why it takes so long. FamZoo purposely doesn’t allow itself to pull money from your bank accounts. Instead, you push money from your bank account to FamZoo. This is great for peace of mind. No one wants to worry that a company is going to drain their bank account by pulling too much money out.

How much does FamZoo cost?

I’ve always been against paying bank fees. I’ve always felt that if I’m giving the bank money to lend out at high rates, the bank shouldn’t charge me money too. However, FamZoo is an exception. It makes my life so much easier that I don’t mind paying a subscription fee.

If you pay month-to-month FamZoo costs $5.99. It may not seem like a lot, but it can be a large percentage of a child’s allowance. I opted for the two-year pay-in-advance plan, which is $59.99. That comes out to $2.50 a month. It also covers our whole family.

One competitor, Greenlight, has a Greenlight Core plan similar to the FamZoo program. That plan has a $4.99 monthly fee, but it doesn’t seem to have a bulk purchase plan to lower costs. Over the two-year plan, I’ll save 50% with FamZoo.

FamZoo Competitors

FamZoo isn’t alone in the kid debit card space. I mentioned Greenlight above. There are also a couple more: GoHenry and BusyKid. I’m looking into exploring these options more. Stay tuned for reviews on them.

FamZoo Negatives

I found two things with FamZoo that were below my expectations. One was the time to get started. There’s an option to put more money in to start, but I didn’t take it. If I did, I think I would have been able to get started faster.

The second negative is that the company was founded in 2006, and it seems like much of the design is still from around that time. I’m more interested in functionality than design, but others may feel differently.

FamZoo Final Thoughts

We’ve been thrilled with FamZoo. It’s made handling allowances and compound interest so much easier for me. The kids love that it’s made their money more accessible than a stodgy bank account.

If you want a free bonus month, sign up with this special link.

Just Saving My Money (Book Review)

Just Saving My Money

Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books have been famous for nearly fifty years. When I was a kid, I had the PC Game Just Grandma and Me, an adaption of the popular book. Much like Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense, the series has added a personal finance book for beginning readers.

Just Saving My Money is an I Can Read book. It’s at the “My First” level, which is best for “Shared Reading.” In short, it’s good to read with your kids. The sentences are short. Most of the words are short too. It’s 30 pages, but there are only a couple of those short sentences on each page. The illustrations help bring additional context to the story. I’d recommend it for a bedtime story.

Just Saving My Money Summary

Little Critter’s skateboard is old and broken. He wants a new one, but he hasn’t saved enough money for one. Little Critter does chores with varying levels of success. He earns a little money and some more from a lemonade stand.

When Little Critter thinks he has enough money saved, his dad brings him to the bank. They set up an account, and the bank steals all his money. Little Critter doesn’t like this at all. His dad tells him not to worry, and Little Critter trusts him. Little Critter has a book from the bank to keep track of his money. However, he doesn’t have enough for the skateboard. He does more chores to finally be able to buy the skateboard…

… but he doesn’t want the skateboard. He wants a robot dinosaur now. He has the money for the robot dinosaur and thanks his dad for teaching him how to save his money.

Just Saving My Money Lessons

Much like the Berenstain Bears book, there is only one main money lesson in this book. That’s enough for a four or five-year-old, especially one focusing on reading. The money lesson is very obvious. It’s mostly in the title: Save money for large purchases.

You could take a step further and point out that thinking about a purchase for an extra long time can help you evaluate if you really want it. In this case, Little Critter changed his mind about how he wanted to spend his money. The only thing that’s a little odd is that he went from wanting a replacement skateboard, which he could use for many years of fun, to a robot dinosaur. I love robots more than anyone I know, but I bet it gets boring once you finish with the 7-10 things it does. I feel like the skateboard was a more practical decision.

Just Saving My Money Read Aloud

Final Thoughts on Just Saving My Money

I like this book because it’s very age appropriate. If you are getting a beginning reading book, a money lesson is a good bonus. Unlike the Berenstain Bears book, the lesson seems relevant today. It’s priced at a dollar less ($4 vs. $5), so I consider that a great value.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Berenstain Bears: Dollars and Sense (Book Review)

Berenstain Bears Dollars and Sense

I grew up in the late 1980s with the Berenstain Bears stories. I forgot a lot about the specifics of their books. I certainly don’t remember Berenstain Bears books about money. Fortunately, this isn’t a case of my mind forgetting things. Stan and Jan Berenstain didn’t write Dollars and Sense until 2001. It was one of the last books that the creative team wrote about the famous bear family in bear country.

Before we start on Dollars and Sense, I uncovered an interesting detail in my research about Jan and Stan Berenstain. One of their first published books in 1952 was about how to fill out your tax form. It’s called Tax-Wise: A Pictorial Romp Through the Tax Form.

Is that as interesting as their 1960 book “And Beat Him When he Sneezes” ? I don’t know. Nonetheless, the Berenstain Bears is a best-selling children’s book series.

Let’s get to reviewing the book:

Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense Summary

Books aimed at four and five-year-olds need to be focused on the basics. That means starting with physical coins and dollars. Dollars and Sense doesn’t disappoint. It draws in kids with the physical fun of coins (flippable, stackable, etc.) and transitions into more valuable dollars. Unlike many other early reader books, Dollars and Sense doesn’t explain why dollars are much more valuable than cents.

Instead, we have dad going on a rampage that he can’t give Brother Bear and Sister $5 and $10 for baseball cards and doll wedding dresses. Mama Bear comes to the rescue and suggests they give the cubs an allowance. I strongly suggest giving kids an allowance. Brother and Sister Bear proceed to make money mistakes. They spend all their allowance on the first day of the week and never save any.

One day, they notice that Papa Bear is balancing the checkbook for the family. Mama Bear explains that balancing the checkbook allows them to review how they spent their money and how much they have left. Mama Bear teaches the kids how to write checks, and the cubs suddenly decide to make a better spending decision. The book ends very abruptly after that.

My version of the book includes a series of tear-out checks and bonus stickers.

Money Lessons from Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense

The big money lesson is to create some barrier to make kids pause and think about spending money. The book uses writing checks to accomplish this. I’m not a fan. I’m 46 years old, and I’ve never balanced a checkbook. I rarely write a check nowadays. I could write two or three a year. This feels antiquated. Not only that, but it’s spending a lot of time learning a system they may never use in real life.

Give Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense a Try

The good news is that you don’t have to buy the book or go to the library to see if the book is right for you. I found a video on YouTube of a person reading the book out loud. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t comment on the legality of essentially “giving away” the book’s contents, but YouTube hasn’t taken it down. There are several others, but I liked this one.



Additionally, I found that it may be free to borrow digitally on Archive.org. If you have an account (it’s free), give it a try.

Final Thoughts on Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense

I really wanted to like this book, but I just can’t. There’s one important money lesson, think before you spend, but kids will probably learn that best by making money mistakes themselves. Getting kids to write checks for their allowance will likely make them equate managing money with chores/work.

There are better children’s finance literacy books to teach kids the value of a dollar.

Rating: ⭐⭐

I know this glowing review is going to make you want to spend your money right away. That’s sarcasm, but I always have to include the obligatory link to the book Amazon. If you do make a purchase I may make a few pennies to pay for hosting.