Brian

Schoolhouse Rock: Money Rock Teaches Kids about Money

Decades ago, Schoolhouse Rock famously taught millions of kids how a bill became a law and how parts of speech work. I’m Just a Bill and Conjunction Junction are in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame (if there was one). Don’t forget Three is a Magic Number because it rounds out the three most popular Schoolhouse Rock videos.

However, did you know that Schoolhouse Rock also taught kids about money? It was released in 1994, over two decades after the Multiplication Rock that started it all. It’s not very well-known. When ABC does it’s Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong on February 1st, there, sadly, will be no money songs.

I found the DVD of Schoolhouse Rock Money Rock in my library. If you are a Disney+ subscriber, it’s easier to stream it for free. Another option is to watch it on YouTube. The quality of the videos is poor, but better than nothing:

Each of the Money Rock shorts is three minutes long. In about the time that you’d watch a half-hour sitcom, you have a personal finance education. Well, it’s more complicated. The videos go quickly to fit it all in three minutes. The explanation of Dollar Cost Averaging in the investing video is good, but the concept can’t be addressed in only fifteen seconds.

The best thing to do is watch these with the kids and talk about them afterward. My kids had questions about each one. It’s a good hour spent and makes for an easy transition into other Schoolhouse Rock seasons.

Here’s a summary of each episode:

Dollars and Sense

Becky Sue realizes that her ukelele isn’t going to work if she wants to be a country western star. She needs a guitar, amps, speakers, microphones, etc.

The banker is there to help. He explains that if Becky deposits her money, the bank will pay her interest, and she’ll have enough for the equipment in a year.

Becky doesn’t want to wait a year, so the banker explains that she can take a loan and get the equipment immediately. The catch is that she now has to pay the interest.

Dollars and Sense is one of my favorite lessons. Kids learn that interest can either work for you or against you.

My 9-year-old didn’t understand why someone would have to pay the bank interest on the loan. I tried to explain that the bank has to make money. Giving money and just hoping to get paid back in the future isn’t helpful to the bank.

Tax Man Max

Tax Man Max explains taxes. It went quickly, and I had to pause and reply a few times to catch the different types it portrayed: Income, property, sales, utilities, and licenses for dogs and cats.

This does an excellent job of explaining that taxes fund the city, state, and federal governments so that we have schools, roads, train tracks, libraries, police, firefighters, and mail carriers.

There was a quick explanation that people get upset about paying taxes, so they rightfully want to know that the money is being used well.

Finally, there’s a quick explanation of how tax deductions work. While accurate, a one-liner on tax deductions does not provide much education for kids.

Where the Money Goes

Kids learn where the parents’ money goes: taxes, mortgage (house), groceries, car, etc.

This did an outstanding job of telling kids that they can help by saving money on the phone bill, electricity, and even the laundry by not making a mess.

One part I didn’t like is that it mentioned, “If you plan to inherit a million dollars, then there’s no reason to save.” Even in 1994, that may not have been retirement money. You never know what can go wrong with inheritance plans.

$7.50 Once a Week

How does a kid budget his allowance of $7.50 a week? At the beginning of the week, he feels rich.

He budgets an ice cream sandwich after school lunch at $0.50 a day or $2.50 per week. However, he spends the rest of money his money too quickly. He missed opportunities to compare prices and save money.

The kid decides he can do other jobs to make some more money from his parents.

Tyrannosaurus Debt

Why do kids need to learn about the National Debt? I’m not sure.

My kids had questions, and I explained that we borrowed money and should pay it back. However, I didn’t want them to be concerned that the United States owes 31 trillion dollars. Japan’s GDP to Debt is twice the United States. I also didn’t want them to think it was okay to borrow money and not pay it back. It’s probably best to avoid this topic with kids.

Despite the success of I’m Just a Bill, there are many adults who don’t know how a bill becomes a law. Nonetheless, it’s videos like this (and I’m Just a Bill) are useful tools to send to adults. As a bonus, Bill from I’m Just a Bill appears at the end.

This for That

This episode is about the history of how bartering worked with cavemen.

It’s hard to trade yaks for cows because they are big and bulky. Shiny shells are easier.

Mesopotamia invented metal coins. China invented paper money. Columbus bartered beads with Native Americans.

We still barter today. Sports teams barter players, and kids barter Pokemon cards.

Walkin’ on Wall Street

A pigeon teaches kids to buy low and sell high. Using your money to make more money is called an investment. Kids learn about what a stock is. There’s a very quick explanation of Dollar Cost Averaging.

One fun part of this video is that the pigeon gets stock quotes in fractions from a newspaper. Nowadays, stock prices are in decimals, and I don’t think papers publish the prices.

The Check’s in the Mail

Overall, this episode wasn’t very useful. We don’t use checks too much nowadays. We use electric transfers, debit cards, or credit cards.

There’s a little interesting part about how your bank transfer money through a central bank to the receiver’s bank.

Final Thoughts on Schoolhouse Rock Money Rock

To write this article, I sat down with my kids to watch it for the second time. I put it on for them around two years ago. My 10-year-old remembered it well, but my 9-year-old did not. I think it’s helpful for this age group because they asked questions, and we could discuss. The discussions were quick, though – they wanted to move on to the next one.

I don’t know if that’s a sign they were looking forward to the next one or if they just wanted to plow through them and get to another activity they enjoy more.

If Schoolhouse Rock moves a little too fast or if you are looking for another television show to learn about money, see teach your kids about money with television.

Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money-Smart Kids

Raising Money Smart Kids

I love whenever anyone’s best tips for raising money-smart kids. However, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been reading Kiplinger’s since I was a kid. My mother subscribed to it, and I was interested. She had explained compound interest to me a long time ago. In ancient times (around 1988), banks paid a real interest rate – about 7-8%, if my memory serves. I had some money saved from my paper route and first job at Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, so it seemed like a good idea to learn more about investing worked.

A lot of personal finance is now online (such as this site), but I’ve been a Kiplinger’s subscriber since college. You can get a couple of years of it for around $40, which is a great deal compared to the cover price of a whopping $6.99. I’m all for recognizing the value of financial advice, but that’s a lot of money for 72 ad-filled pages of often out-of-date information. It shows how challenging the print world is nowadays.

Today, I’d like to cover Kiplinger’s tips for raising money-smart kids, spread out over two issues last year. Specifically, I’m talking about Janet Bodnar, who runs the Money Smart Women column. Fortunately, the column covers some fathers with tips about raising money-smart kids. Personal finance should be something for the whole family. My family is a real-life example of it. It’s just that I have a crazy obsession.

Part 1: Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money Smart Kids

In the first article, Janet Bodnar covers What Kids Need to Know About Finances. She’s written the book Raising Money Smart Kids, but to be fair, there are more than a few books with that title.

The article points out that high-net-worth women have jumped into estate planning due to COVID. These families with a lot of money want their kids to know how to handle it. We fit that profile too. However, I’m far from the stage of worrying about how my nine and 10-year-old boys will manage money years from now. I want to help them to build a foundation now rather than be disappointed later. Personal finance is what I know and what I’m passionate about, so I might pass that knowledge on.

The article continues that spending and saving are the two most important things to teach. I agree, especially for young kids. Older kids have more opportunities to focus on earning more and investing. However, schoolwork comes first, so making more has to be about “working smarter” rather than “working longer/harder.” At least investing can be very quick. An automatic investing plan can be set up in just a few minutes.

The next tip was to have younger kids use cash and let older kids use an ATM account attached to a bank – avoid credit cards. This tip is reasonable. Although, my kids have been authorized users on my Amazon card for a few years. They have yet to learn about it and wouldn’t know where or how to use it, but it will help them earn credit whenever needed.

The final tip was that young kids don’t need to know about family income. That’s obvious. Young children are still learning place value, and numbers like hundreds of thousands don’t make much sense.

Part 2: Kiplinger’s Tips for Raising Money Smart Kids

As a follow-up to that article, Bodnar shared some reader tips on raising money smart kids.

One reader shared a “parent matching” strategy. That’s where a parent will reward a child for saving with more money, similar to how a 401k match works at many companies. Another reader made it simple, “Live below your means.” Finally, one reader stressed the value of saving over earning because you pay taxes on money earned.

Some readers disagreed with the above tip about not giving kids credit cards. Like me, one reader wanted their children to establish excellent credit at a young age. Another reader required kids to pay it off in full every month. I love that last tip, as it builds a habit and establishes the importance of it before the kids are on their own in college.

Finally, Bodnar recommended two books for helping high school students with investing, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of and How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest!. For younger kids, I have my own opinion on the best book to teach kids about money.

Aside from books, I would add a podcast for teens, NPR’s Planet Money’s Summer School on investing.

I found all these reader tips (along with Bodnar’s book recommendation) better than the original article. Over both articles, there are plenty of good tips – definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Origanlly published 1/24/2022

16 Cheap Sleepover Ideas

My kids are just getting old enough for sleepovers and I’m not 100% sure if I’m ready for it. With these cheap sleepover ideas, at least I don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money. There are so many fun things for tweens and teens to do that are cheap or even free. In the end, slumber parties are all about spending time with friends.

Get Prepared

Before we get to the sleepover ideas, let’s get prepared.

If your child is going to someone else’s house, they’ll need pajamas, pillows/pillowcases, blankets, sleeping bags… and some tips on how to win a pillow fight. My strategy is to block first, then swing while their pillow is down.

The Main Event

1. Movie night

Set up a movie marathon and invite friends over to watch some of their favorite films. Pair it with a popcorn bar. Everyone gets to flavor their own popcorn. This great popcorn popper is around $15. As a bonus, you’ve already got snacks covered.

2. Game night

Have a variety of board games, card games, and video games available for everyone to play. Everyone can bring their favorite and the group can vote. You’ll certainly have more than enough options.

3. Make Friendship Bracelets

Making bracelets is one of my favorite cheap activities. In fact, you can start a business making bracelets.

4. Makover Party

I don’t have teen girls, but I’ve seen enough movies to know that makeovers are popular with them. (Err, everything in movies is true, right?) Don’t tell anyone but even my boys have experimented doing their nails. As a bonus nail polish can be used in a lot of other crafts. Don’t forget lipstick, blush, face masks, eye-liner, or whatever make-up things that girls wear that I know nothing about.

5. Craft night

Have a variety of craft materials available for friends to make their own jewelry, bracelets, or other crafts.

6. Murder mystery night

Everyone loves a good murder mystery! This one takes a little planning. I’m sure there are dozens of articles just a quick Google search away to help you.

7. Time capsule

Kids can putting small mementos in a box, write letters to future selves, and then seal it up with a plan to open it in the future.

8. Baking party

Bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. As a bonus, you can skip the next section: “Snack Time”

9. Snack Time!

Don’t forget to plan a snack time (unless you are doing the popcorn bar from above. You can choose from all the classic sleepover food groups: candy, cookies, chips, and chocolate.

Fun Sleepover Games

10. Scavenger/Treasure hunt

Create a scavenger/treasure hunt around the house. Teams of two teens can solve puzzles and find the next clue until they get to the final destination.

11. Dance Competition

Dancing with friends is always fun, right? If there’s a friend who doesn’t like to dance, they can be the judge!

Dinner Ideas

Every good sleepover involves dinner.

12. DIY pizza

Get together to make homemade pizzas with a variety of toppings.

13. Pot Luck

Each guest can bring a dish that they made before the sleepover party

Sleep Time

14. Indoor camping

Set up tents inside and have a camping-themed sleepover complete with roasting marshmallows. You can create a spooky theme starting with a horror movies for the main event and following up with ghost stories.

Summertime Ideas

If it’s summertime (or you live in a warm area) there are a number of ideas you can explore.

15. Outdoor movie night

(This one may not be so cheap. It’s only cheap if you have the equipment or a friend who does.) Set up a projector and screen in the backyard and have a movie night under the stars. (Projectors are getting cheaper and perhaps a cheap bed sheet can be used.)

16. Pool party

Step one: Buy an expensive pool.
Step two: Have a cheap pool party.

I’m joking with this one. It’s obviously cheating to use an expensive pool. However, if you already have one, might as well take advantage of it.

What we Learned at Kid Wealth in 2022

Happy New Year, 2023! Before we completely say goodbye to 2022, let’s look back at what I learned in 2022. It was the first year of Kid Wealth, and it was mostly a soft launch as I tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully, you learned a few things as well.

Moderation in Financial Literacy is Important

If you’ve heard a kid say, “I hate math”, you probably know the worst thing you can do is force more math on them. Financial literacy can work the same way. If a kid is interested in money, you’ve got the green light to go crazy and throw all the resources on this site at them.

My kids know that I write about personal finance. I can get a little “preachy” in my excitement to share what I know. I’ve learned to back off and instead use tools to teach kids about money. A board game or even a television show makes learning about money fun. If you meet resistance, adding one of these “fun financial literacy” activities once a week is a good way to go.

Allowances

When I started the year, I didn’t know much about how to give an allowance. It sounds like it should be simple, but there’s a lot of complexity about whether to tie it to chores and how to guide kids to budget their money. I found that it’s crucial to let kids make money mistakes.

I found that dealing with cash can be challenging regarding allowance. I didn’t often have four one-dollar bills hanging around. It’s much easier to use FamZoo to load a debit card for the kids. They get their allowance every week, even if I forget. I can also set things up to give them a great interest rate to encourage them to save.

Kid Money Books

I wrote quite a few reviews of children’s books. There are books for teaching your kids investing, teach your kids about financial independence and retiring early.

There are great general-purpose kid financial literacy books like Grandpa’s Fortune Fables. I can’t get my kids to read that book, but I found one the kids did want to read…

The Golden Quest caught their attention because it’s a graphic novel. They wanted to read it and got through it in about an hour. It covers many major financial topics at a high level. The bonus with this book is that it helps when I need to clean their room. What’s your awesome stuff, kids? Which stuff isn’t so awesome?

Parents may want to read The First National Bank of Dad. I’ll be working on more books for adults to read in 2023.

Everything Else

This website is very focused on kids and money. However, it is important to develop skills beyond financial literacy. You may want to read about teaching kids grit. Grit will come in handy if you want kids to become entrepreneurs.

Parents, you might want to look into a kid Roth IRA. The compound interest could be worth millions. Imagine how much more money you’d have today if you saved enough for retirement by age 20 or 25.

Kid Wealth Website Stuff

I learned that people don’t like courses as a giveaway, even if they usually sell for over $150. I tried to get people to sign up for my mailing list, and very few people did. I wonder if other parents are too overloaded with other stuff to make their kids a millionaire. If they are as busy as we are with our kids, then it makes complete sense.

I want to do much more with the main age categories you see on the front page. Stay tuned for that.

Overall, I just scratched the surface of what I want to do with this website. I have many ideas that extend beyond the concept of a simple blog.

Money and Finance For Kids (Book Review)

Money and Finance for Kids by Thelma Ribeiro is a little different from other books I’ve reviewed. As best I can tell, it is self-published. It doesn’t have the typical copyright page with publishing details. There are no fancy quotes from famous people on the back. It’s just a book and story, which is very refreshing in its simplicity.

I discovered Money and Finance for Kids at a personal finance conference. The author, Thelma Ribeiro, was there selling the book. I’m always going to support authors of children’s books about money. A few dollars later, I had the copy in my hand that I’m reviewing now.

Money and Finance has another trick that sets it apart from other kid financial literacy books – it’s translated into Portuguese. Thelma Ribeiro is Brazilian, so you know it’s an authentic translation. I was tempted to pick up a Portuguese copy. That temptation didn’t last long. No one wants to read my book review when I don’t speak or read the language. I have some Brazilian friends, but their child is ten years old, which is a little too old for this book.

That’s enough of the back story, right?

Money and Finance for Kids Summary

The story revolves around 7-year-old Marlon spending one day with his grandfather. Marlon starts the day with his grandfather at the grocery store, where he spots a toy car he’d love to have.

This kicks off Marlon’s discovery of how money works. He learns that the barter system used to work, but it had some problems. It’s useless nowadays. He also learns that you can’t just copy money to make more. There’s real value behind money.

Marlon decides he will have to earn money by doing chores or starting a lemonade stand. He decides to go with the lemonade stand. The book walks the reader through his plan – what his costs and earnings will be. It’s not too far different from the classic video game Lemonade Stand. (For more lemonade entrepreneurship see The Lemonade War book.

Marlon doesn’t just sell lemonade. He adds value by telling a joke along with the lemonade. One could say that he’s selling smiles. It works, and Marlon makes almost enough money to buy the car. He’s close enough to finish it up by doing some chores around the house for extra money from grandpa.

It ends with a teaser of a sequel. What if there was a magical way that money could make more money?

The Bad from Money and Finance for Kids

There’s not too much to dislike about this book. I don’t like to point out negatives, but I feel that criticism, when due is helpful. I don’t know about other readers, but I get suspicious when all reviews are glowing. My eight-year-old loves to pick apart stories. I think he feels it’s a treasure hunt. He may have inherited that trait from me.

In this case, my son would have some questions about page 30, a few “Extra Questions to Readers.” This is a kid’s activity section. There is an image of chores and amounts that Marlon can earn if he performs them. The first question is, “Which two chores can he do to earn two dollars?” There’s no correct answer. There are three chores he could do, two for fifty cents and one for a dollar. However, no two chores add up to exactly two dollars.

Also, in nit-picky fashion two of those chores are worth “$0.5” instead of “$0.50.” For younger kids, seeing the 50 may be important, especially as they work with coins.

What Kids Will Learn from Money and Finance for Kids

Kids learn a lot about the history of money from bartering, to the invention of coins, and finally paper money. (No, Bitcoin isn’t in this book. For that, turn to the Teen Titans Go! episode about bees.)

Maybe every kid gets to a point where they say, “I want [X].” From time to time, parents can decide if they want to pay for it, but eventually, the item gets too expensive, and it’s time for kids to help.

Kids will also learn some basic budgeting, such as how to save for short, medium, and long-term goals.

Final Thoughts on Money and Finance for Kids

This book covers a lot of money basics that are perfect for a seven-year-old.

It’s extremely well-rated on Amazon. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen all five stars and one 4 star review. Click her to buy it now.

Consider this one more ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review.

The Allowance Game (Board Game Review)

Allowance Game

Phew! The kids are back in school after a long Thanksgiving break. Before they returned, we had a lot of fun at home playing board games. One of the games we played for the first time was The Allowance Game by Lakeshore Learning. I bought this game a few years ago, but we never got a chance to open it and play it.

Before I get to the game, I’d like to introduce you to Lakeshore Learning. There aren’t too many physical Lakeshore Learning stores around, but if you have one near you, you are in for a treat! Many Lakeshore Learning products are made for teachers to use in the classroom. However, there’s so much for parents to bring home and educate their kids. If you are homeschooling, I bet it has nearly everything you’d ever need.

Lakeshore has two products that caught my attention. One is the Lakeshore Multiplication Machine and the other is, of course, the Lakeshore Allowance Game. I didn’t know much about The Allowance Game, but sign me up for any game that teaches kids about money. (The Multiplication Machine is outstanding. I’m a strong believer that solid math skills are a great complement to a kid’s financial literacy education.)

Enough about Lakeshore learning itself. Let’s move on to the review of the Allowance Game:

What is The Allowance Game

The Allowance Game is a Monopoly-style game board where players go around the board, landing on squares to make money. The first player to $20 is the winner. Unlike Monopoly, there is almost no strategy to the game. You land on an “earn” square or a “spend” square. For example, you could earn 50 cents for walking the neighbor’s dog, but you could spend $2.25 buying school supplies. Typically you earn for doing chores or getting good grades.

Some squares, like “forgetting your homework,” can cause you to lose a turn. That means fewer times passing “Home” and collecting $2.

There are a lot more earn or receive squares than spend squares. Otherwise, it would be hard for someone to get the $20 necessary to win. Our game centered around one of my sons getting lucky enough to land on the “birthday” square twice. That’s $5 each time. My other son and I missed it, and we couldn’t compete.

Two squares require a little strategy. There’s a bank square and a lemonade stand square. On the bank square, a player can choose to deposit $2 and earn 50 cents every time they land on the square in the future. The $2 deposit counts towards the $20 you need to win the game. I landed on the bank square early and never landed on it again to get my 50 cents. The son who won the game had the same experience.

The lemonade stand square acts more like Monopoly property. You spend $1, and you own it. Then you collect 40 cents when other players land on it. (They are buying lemonade from you.) My son, who lost, bought the lemonade stand, and no one landed on it again. That’s how business goes sometimes.

There’s one thing that’s a little different from most games. The instructions are printed on the bottom of the box. If you pick up a second-hand version, you may think the previous owner lost the instructions.

What Kids Learn from The Allowance Game

The strength in this game shines when each kid acts as their own banker. (Allowance is designed for everyone to be a banker with the money in the middle of the board.) As the banker, the kids do a lot of math, counting, and making change as they go around the board. They are working with coins (nickels, dimes, and quarters – no pennies) and making change with single dollar bills and five dollar bills.

I regret not playing it years ago when my kids were 5, 6, or 7. They still enjoyed the game at (almost) 9 and 10, but they may have been happy to play ANY game.

What’s Bad About The Allowance Game

There are not too many negatives about the game. The biggest one, I would say, is equating spending with negative consequences. You lose a dollar giving to charity. You lose $1.20 at a garage sale. Charity shouldn’t be a negative, and garage sales are generally frugal. Fortunately, there aren’t many of these squares.

A few spend squares are buying bubble gum, playing a video game, or forgetting a library book. I think it’s fine to associate these with negative consequences.

The lemonade stand experience of spending a dollar backfired in our game, which isn’t a great introduction to entrepreneurship.

Final Thoughts Lakeshore Learning’s Allowance Game

The Allowance Game is one of a few valuable first money experiences that I can recommend. The age on the box says 5+, and I’d say it’s good for 5-9 years old. You don’t want to go much younger than that because math can be difficult. You’ll want to keep it away from younger siblings as the coins could be a hazard – small parts that can wind up in a mouth.

It’s a fun way to learn the basics of cash and some ways that people can make and spend money. You can always buy a copy at Amazon. If this doesn’t seem like a game you are interested in, check out some of other games that teach kids about money.

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.

Halloween Money Lessons – Cash or Candy

Halloween Cash or Candy

Halloween is just a few days away. This is the time of year for witches, ghosts, candy, and kid money lessons. Wait, kid money lessons?

Yep.

We all know how Halloween night is supposed to go. Kids get dressed up in costumes, and they go door-to-door ringing bells, saying “Trick or Treat,” and get some free, delicious Halloween candy.

What if, instead of just giving candy, the response was “cash or candy?”

That’s what Chuck Jaffe has done since 2016. It’s worth reading the article. I’ll wait.

If you cheated and didn’t go read the article, then:

  1. Shame on you
  2. I’ll give you a little summary

Jaffe has played games with kids where they either forgo candy or trade candy they already have. In return, they can have a guaranteed cash prize and/or a chance at a bigger cash prize.

The idea is simple… get kids thinking about value.

Almost all the kids took the money when the offer was simply cash. That makes sense; they can get candy from every other house. Over the years, the kids visiting Jaffe’s home seem to know that he’s “the money house.” The kids almost always take that option, even when it’s just a gamble. And why wouldn’t they? It’s fun.

What if kids were given big candy bars? Everyone knows that the houses that give out the big bars are rare. They’re more valuable.

Experiment: Would Kids Choose Cash or Big Candy

I found this YouTube video about how one house offered kids a $2.50 giant bar or a dollar bill. Clearly, the giant bar of candy has more value. However, kids can still get candy from everyone else, and cash is rare. It turns out that about 25% took the dollar bill. There are a few other interesting things that the person learned. I don’t want to give it all away, so watch it below:

Final Thoughts

I’d love to try out some of this stuff at Halloween myself. However, we only get two or three groups of trick-or-treaters every year. I’m not sure I’d learn too much or increase the financial literacy of too many kids.

One of the more interesting side effects of Cash or Candy is that kids walk away with less candy. That’s less sugar, cavities, and obesity.

Finally, if Cash or Candy isn’t your thing and you find yourself with too much candy, you can always try “Cash FOR Candy.” This program run by HeathyWage will give you cash for sending your candy to overseas troops. They have limited cash to give, so you need to act fast.