How to Use Apps to Teach Kids About Money

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This article, written by Ella Morton, was originally published on Women & Co.

According to a new national survey of more than 1,500 parents released by Citi Community Development in support of the Teach Children to Save campaign, 76 percent of parents think that technology has caused their children to have a different understanding of money than previous generations. And it’s no surprise: How do you explain the finer points of saving, spending, and investment to children who—thanks to online shopping, mobile technology and contactless payments—rarely see the exchange of cash?

The world of finance can be pretty abstract to children. Two solutions: Make it tangible and make it fun.

First, kids can get some real-world experience by participating in Teach Children to Save Day on April 11. The event is sponsored by the American Bankers Association and hundreds of Citi employees will mark the annual event by volunteering in classrooms and after-school programs across the country. The Citi volunteers will teach the financial facts of life, including how to differentiate between “needs” and “wants” and the importance of saving to reach future goals. Citibank branch locations will also host events designed to get kids thinking about managing their money.

And for more virtual lessons that children can try at home, look for mobile apps that bring the experience of money management to life. According to some searches run on the app stores, we have mentioned a few of the most popular types of financial literacy apps available below. Remember to always check the terms and privacy policy before downloading an app to make sure that you’re comfortable with the information that you’ll be sharing.

Make the world of finance tangible and fun—with apps.

Money games
Search the app store for “money games for kids” and you’ll find a wide variety of apps designed to teach kids how to identify coins, add them up and make change. For example, Coin Math ($1.99, iOS), geared toward kids aged four to eight, complements elementary school math with real-world shopping scenarios.

Allowance apps
There are also a variety of apps that help parents manage kids’ allowances, chores and spending money in a fun, interactive format. iAllowance ($3.99, iOS), for example, provides users with “banks” for each child that are divided into savings, spending money, and any custom bank you wish to add. You can set automatic allowance payments and tie them to the completion of chores—so if tasks don’t get checked off, money doesn’t get transferred. Goals and rewards enable each child to see the benefits of saving, and the changes and updates that each kid makes appear on your phone, making them easy to track and manage.

Financial literacy apps
A wide variety of educational organizations and financial literacy groups offer apps that teach kids the basics of spending and saving wisely at an early age. Aimed at kids aged 7 and up, Savings Spree ($5.99, iOS) is offered by Money Savvy Generation, and uses hand-drawn graphics to demonstrate how daily decisions can have big financial consequences. Using the format of a game show—hosted by the Money Savvy Pig—the app shows kids how to save for short- and long-term goals, spend shrewdly, and invest for college. It also reminds them that sometimes things out of our control require us to spend money—hence the importance of a rainy day fund.

Board games
Remember the classic board games where the “banker” doled out paper money to each player for rent payments and their salaries? They’re back in mobile form, and still a great way to introduce long-term financial concepts like budgeting, mortgages and major purchases. THE GAME OF LIFE Classic Edition ($0.99, iOS, Android, Windows Phone), for example, provides valuable lessons in financial education—all hidden sneakily in a brightly colored 3D gaming experience.

Bank apps
Once your children understand the ins and outs of having a bank account, give them some real-world experience by showing them how you use technology to manage your own finances. The Citi ® Tablet App (free, iOS), for example, provides you with an easy way to show them how to visualize how you budget with colorful displays, charts and interactive features that can make the basics of money management easier for little minds to grasp.

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