POSTED BY Haley Dwight ON Monday, July 26, 2010 |1 COMMENT

Haley's Weekly Family Finance Picks (#7)

This is entry #7 in a weekly summer series by “guest blogger” and FamZoo summer intern Haley Dwight.

My top three family finance picks for this week are:

What Age for Which Chores? by Lisa Belkin from the New York Times Parenting Blog

Are you thinking it’s time to make your kids responsible for some chores around the house? Check out Lisa’s post on the subject. Be sure to browse through the comments from parents. You’ll find lots of excellent suggestions and amusing stories.

Chore Fail!In the picture to the right, you can see what happened to my littlest brother when he didn’t make his bed last week!

Do Your Kids Think Money Grows On Trees? by Shannon & Brian Exford for ABC50

Do you find that your kids ask to buy more stuff during the summer? More “hanging out” and less school often means more temptations to make purchases. As a result, Shannon and Brian suggest that summer is the perfect time to teach your kids to be “smart consumers”. They encourage parents to:

  • Use an allowance as a teaching tool.
  • Set clear rules and expectations by talking through typical problems and solutions ahead of time.
  • Let children learn some “painful lessons of overspending or remorseful spending”.

Check out the article to see their nice list of 8 questions to discuss with your child.

My brothers and I have a clear understanding of the terms of our allowances because our Dad had discussions with us before we started receiving money. We know there are no advances (well, very few at least) and that we cannot buy any inappropriate items (no cigs, no tats! ;-).

Money and Kids by Tony Chen from Savvy Daddy

Tony runs SavvyDaddy.com. It’s a site that gives Dads resources for “raising kids with strong character and savvy life skills”. In his recent post, Tony shares 9 tips for teaching your kids about money based on an interview with Susan Beacham of Money Savvy Generation. Click here to see Tony’s tips.

Money Savvy Generation makes a number of products for teaching money management basics — like their 4 part piggy bank. It serves as a nice, concrete introduction for youngsters to the basic concepts of spending, saving, giving, and investing.

Once your kids get savvy enough to overflow their piggy banks, you might want to transition them to FamZoo virtual accounts. FamZoo is a nice warm-up to online banking and the realities of an increasingly cash-less society.

POSTED BY Bill Dwight ON Friday, July 23, 2010 |LEAVE A COMMENT!

Teach Your Kids How to Track Expenses

Tracking expenses is certainly one of the top personal finance skills to master. FamZoo’s virtual accounts provide a nice mechanism for tracking your children’s spending history. They’ll help you teach your kids to live within their means and make intelligent spending decisions.

Until now, it’s been up to the parents to record purchases as transactions in their children’s virtual accounts. But, what if you feel it’s time your children learned this responsibility themselves? Maybe you’d like to put your tween or teen in charge of recording clothing purchases. Or, have your child track the family entertainment spending.

Well, now you can. Last night, we rolled out a new feature that let’s you, the parent, (optionally) allow your child to enter, edit, and delete transactions in selected accounts. To stay in the loop, you can even set things up to alert you by email or text message whenever your child makes a change.

All you have to do is check the box in the Child Permissions section of the Create Account Form (or the Edit Account Form if you’ making the change for an existing account). Here’s the section we’re talking about:

Child Permissions for Accounts

You can see that I’ve set it up to send me a text message alert to my cell phone whenever Haley makes a change to her Clothing account. I could add additional alerts — like one for my wife (email, text message, or both). Here’s what the alert looks like on my cell phone when Haley enters a transaction:

Sample Debit Alert

Now, when I sign in as a parent, I can see which accounts have the kid permissions switched on by looking for the open lock icon next to the account name. Here’s what it looks like:

Parents View of Editable Account

When Haley signs in, now she’ll see the credit and debit icons next to the Clothing account. She can click on the debit icon to record a clothing purchase. Here’s what it looks like:

Kids View of Editable Account

When she clicks on her clothing balance amount to go inspect the transactions, she’ll notice that the transactions page for the Clothing account now includes a form at the top for entering new transactions. When she hovers the mouse over an existing transaction below, she’ll see she can now click on the pencil or trash can to edit or delete it.

Transactions Form

So, that’s how it works.

Is it time for you to let your child track expenses in an account? Let us know how it works out.

P.S. Tracking expenses and making a budget go hand-in-hand. See this related post for how you can use FamZoo to teach your child the fundamentals of making a budget. And, here’s an example of a teen clothing budget.

POSTED BY Haley Dwight ON Sunday, July 18, 2010 |LEAVE A COMMENT!

Haley's Weekly Family Finance Picks (#6)

This is entry #6 in a weekly summer series by "guest blogger" and FamZoo summer intern Haley Dwight.

My top three family finance picks for this week are:

Kids and Money: How to Cultivate Good Financial Skills from Financial Web

This article covers four tips for teaching children financial skills:

  • use allowance wisely,
  • teach kids about savings,
  • discuss consumption and purchasing, and
  • talk about salary and credit.

The focus is on the financial crisis of 2007 and how each of these suggestions can help prevent a similar crisis in future generations.

I like the commentary on using allowances wisely. I like the specific suggestion of depositing your child’s allowance in a bank account (FamZoo accounts work too!) instead of just doling out cash directly. Children are much more likely to run around spending their cash when they don’t have to go through the extra step of withdrawing it from an account.

When I babysat in my early teen years, I would put at least half of my earnings in FamZoo instead of keeping all the money in cash. I avoided quite a few unnecessary Starbucks trips that way! :)

Lessons on Teaching Kids About Money by Renee McGruder for Money Management International

Renee also mentions the volatile economy as a reason to start teaching children financial skills early. She cites a survey by T. Rowe Price that found 48 percent of parents say they’re having more discussions with their children about money, saving, and spending this year than they did a year ago.

Renee’s top tips to teach kids money management are:

  • turn grocery shopping into a teachable moment,
  • always shop with a list to avoid impulse buys,
  • give children an allowance,
  • help your child open a small business, and
  • open a checkings/savings account for your child.

If your child isn’t quite ready for that last one, a FamZoo virtual account might be just the thing!

First WillToons.com Check

Getting your child started with their own small business allows them to make money outside of their allowance (or instead of one). The experience gives them more chances to practice smart money management as well as the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills. My younger brother decided to start selling T-shirts with his own cartoons on them. He learned the many steps of starting your own small business and was rewarded with his first ever paycheck at age 11. Nice!

On a related note, FamZoo recently teamed up with Biz In A Boxx to make a video for children interested in starting their own small businesses.

Children Need Personal Financial Education by SurePath Financial Solutions for the Thousand Oaks Acorn

Need a wake-up call about your own spending habits? According to a study cited in the article, 24% of respondents gave themselves a C, D or F grade on their knowledge of financial literacy and 41% said they learned their financial skills from their parents or at home.

This article is brutally honest about what some parents are doing to ruin their children’s perception of finances. You can try to teach your children how to be financially smart, but none of that matters if they see Mom and Dad blowing their money on unnecessary items or evading credit-card payments! Some of the major questions parents should be asking themselves include:

  • Is saving emphasized?
  • Are late notices arriving because the family bill-payer forgot to pay?
  • Are there ongoing arguments over money?
  • Are the parents generous givers?

Parents need to evaluate their own poor money habits before Junior picks up on them! Sometimes kids are more perceptive than you think.

POSTED BY Bill Dwight ON Monday, July 12, 2010 |3 COMMENTS

Don't Believe In Allowance? Help Your Child Become An Entrepreneur

WillToons.com Frog TShirt

Do you feel that allowances are inappropriate? Perhaps you’re among those parents (like Dave Ramsey) who feel that an allowance only encourages a sense of entitlement. You want your kids to earn their own income.

Do you feel it’s wrong to pay your kids for chores? Maybe you’re one of the many parents who feel that chores just come with the family member territory. Heck, you don’t get paid to scrub the toilets!

Regardless of where you stand on the hotly debated topics of giving an allowance and paying for chores, you probably like the idea of encouraging your child to develop a strong work ethic and a solid sense of independence.

Sadly, outside-the-home job opportunities for kids are increasingly hard to come by these days.

Have you considered encouraging your child to start his or her own business? The Internet has completely changed the opportunity landscape here. Does your kid love to draw? How about selling custom T-Shirts online? (← Shameless plug alert: that’s my son’s shop.) Your child can run a full-fledged online store with payment processing, shipping, the works! And, all of that can be done for free on sites like CafePress.com. Heck, even the traditional lemonade stand can get a boost from a little viral marketing on Facebook.

The problem is: you’re an insanely busy parent, and it sounds like a daunting task to shepherd your child through this process.

But it doesn’t have to be. To turn your kid loose with step-by-step guidance, consider a product like Biz in a Boxx: it’s a business building blueprint designed for kids and teens ages 7 and up that teaches the practical fundamentals of business ownership and entrepreneurship.

Here’s a video I just put together today that shows how your child can use FamZoo and Biz in a Boxx together to take that first step towards launching a business:

Is your child a young entrepreneur? Tell us about it in the comments below.

POSTED BY Haley Dwight ON Sunday, July 11, 2010 |LEAVE A COMMENT!

Haley's Weekly Family Finance Picks (#5)

This is entry #5 in a weekly summer series by "guest blogger" and FamZoo summer intern Haley Dwight.

My top three family finance picks for this week are:

Five Financial Concepts Your Child Should Know by Andrew Salmon for Our Kids

Learn How to Budget Early On!

Andrew encourages teaching your child five concepts about money:

  • the value of hard work,
  • wants vs. needs,
  • compound interest,
  • how credit cards work,
  • and budgeting fundamentals.

These are all important ideas for children to become familiar with before entering the adult world. On the budgeting topic, Andrew says the right time to start is “once your child is earning a regular pay check in place of a weekly allowance”. Here’s where I’d disagree a bit. There’s no reason to wait until a child is of working age to teach good budgeting habits. Why not put your child in charge of an expense like clothing earlier on? Have the child work out a budget with you, and then give them an allowance that matches that budget.

Allowance Tips to Raise Good Money Managers by Kim Grigg for Yuma Sun

Kim provides clear guidelines on which money skill to “teach” and what “tool” to use at each age level: pre-schoolers, elementary-schoolers, tweens, and teens.

Kim mentions that the time to start a savings account for your child is elementary school. Something to consider: If setting up a savings account in a real bank for your youngster sounds like a bit of a hassle for a relatively small balance, you might consider starting with a virtual savings account in FamZoo. You can teach the same lessons about the power of compounding interest (you get to set the rate and compounding period) as well as the discipline of saving a portion of your regular income (say ten to twenty percent of allowance a week). Children can easily log on to FamZoo to watch their account grow with every allowance and interest deposit! My youngest brother, Quintin, even likes to deposit extra change he finds laying around (possibly from Dad’s coin jar…), and his savings account has grown a significant amount!

Once the virtual savings balance builds up to a significant amount, you might choose to roll it over to a real savings account as suggested in the article.

A New Tool to Teach Children About Money by Jennifer Saranow Schultz for The New York Times Bucks Blog

OK, I couldn’t resist this one: FamZoo is featured in the New York Times personal finance blog!! See what my dad has to say about his growing company :)

To top off the week, we were also featured on HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade in a family finances segment by Jennifer Westhoven.

It was a big week for FamZoo in the media. Woohoo!

FamZoo on HLN Morning Express with Robin Meade
POSTED BY Haley Dwight ON Sunday, July 04, 2010 |LEAVE A COMMENT!

Haley's Weekly Family Finance Pick (#4)

This is entry #4 in a weekly summer series by "guest blogger" and FamZoo summer intern Haley Dwight.

Before I start my weekly blog post, I have a bit of a confession to make. The sad truth is that I failed to complete my top 3 this week. I had another job and my Dad was out of town, which made it very hard to focus on my work here at FamZoo :(

I did, however, stumble upon an article that I want to share. So here is my “top 1”.

Children’s Allowance: What and When to Pay by Ray Martin for CBS Money Watch

Happy 4th of July!
My youngest brother when he was a baby - so cute!
Happy 4th!

Ray offers four tips to giving an allowance:

  • teach important lessons with small amounts of money,
  • start giving an allowance once your child understands that money is exchanged for goods,
  • generally do not give money in exchange for chores or grades, and
  • pay enough to cover a certain amount of agreed-upon expenses.

I love the idea of agreeing upon a budget and making your child responsible for managing expenses within it. My parents have taken this approach with our family. Us kids are responsible for paying any entertainment, dining, and clothing fees and staying within our budgets. If we want something extra, we save for it. As you may know, FamZoo just released a budgeting feature, which is perfect for planning any type of budget with your child!

POSTED BY Bill Dwight ON Friday, July 02, 2010 |12 COMMENTS

What's Your Teen's Clothing Budget and Allowance?

What’s your reaction to this clothing budget for an older teenage girl?

Older Teen Girl Clothing Budget Sample

Click to enlarge.

Here’s one of my favorite approaches to teaching kids how to spend wisely: put them in charge of a fixed budget for a specific area of spending. For teens, my wife and I always pick clothing first. It’s a well defined area. It’s a "need" that can quickly morph into a “want”. It’s something that most teens care about a great deal. It’s prone to lots of impulsive decision making and peer pressure. It’s often an emotional friction point between teens and their parents.

In other words, it’s a perfect opportunity for teaching your kids some fiscal discipline in a hands-on way.

Here’s our simple approach:

Have your teenager submit a formal annual clothing budget proposal

List each line item with estimates of typical price and quantity. This tends to be a real eye opener for the teen and even the parent!

Revise the budget proposal until it’s appropriate.

What’s appropriate? It depends upon your family’s financial situation, your family’s values, where you live, and numerous other factors. This phase invariably leads to meaningful parent-child dialog and greater common understanding. It’s a good idea to record some simple explanatory notes along with your final budget. The historical record can come in handy if (when) spending gets off track later.

Establish a regular allowance that matches the overall budget.

The allowance can be weekly, monthly, yearly, or whatever. We like to create an annual allowance and fund the clothing expense account all up front. This challenges our teenagers to handle a large chunk of money wisely over a long period of time. That’s a skill that takes some trial and error to master.

Track the balance and step aside.

Keep track of the running balance in the clothing account and, otherwise, leave the decision-making up to your teen. Well, for the most part. You’ll probably want to set a few basic ground rules up front about what’s off limits. Do what makes sense for your family. But, by all means, let them make the inevitable poor decision here and there. Let them experience the consequences. Make sure they clearly understand one hard and fast rule up front: when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Prom Can Take a Big Bite Out of That Clothing Budget!

Want to explore the topic more deeply? Here are two excellent resources:

How do you handle purchasing clothes with your teen?

How would you revise the sample budget at the top of this post?

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