Stick FamZoo on Your Chore Chart

All youngsters love stickers!

We just made a fun sticker book on the fabulous Moo.com. It features 33 different characters from FamZoo artist Henry Payne. Flip through’em in this Flickr slideshow:

If you’ve got younger kids around the house, you might consider having them make their own chore chart — a great place to slap some stickers. Check out this Dad Labs video on the topic. These guys crack me up. Poor dog!

If you’re interested in getting some of our stickers, just contact us and we’ll see what we can do. (We only did a small run for starters.)

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Save Your Marshmallows, Stop the McNagging, and Give without Getting Scammed: Weekly Family Finance Picks (#28)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. We’re up to 821 now! Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week, it’s all about saving your marshmallows, stopping the McNagging, and giving within your community (without getting scammed):

The Words Every Parent Longs to Hear

Marshmallow Snowman

Teaching kids to delay gratification is a key element to ensuring their financial future. (Not sure about that? Read up on the famous Marshmallow Experiment.)

Based on the back and forth in this column, I’d say Stephen’s son passes the Marshmallow Test. Arguably, the son has a better handle on priorities than the dad. Witness the passage that elicits the quote “It’s only money, Dad, and this is family.” I love that.

I don’t think the key issue is so much exactly where you draw the gratification boundaries — your mileage may very. For example, we cave to the cell phone urge at middle school. That’s earlier than some parents, but later than many others. The key issue is establishing some gratification boundaries and sticking to them.

If you kids turn out like Levi — and I hope they do — they’ll thank you later. Read about Stephen and Levi’s experiences here.

Eight Ways to Thwart McNagging and Take Control of Fast-Food Spending

Speaking of delaying gratification and food (are marshmallows food?)... How about those Happy Meals? (Are Happy Meals food?) Anyway, MBHunter presents a wonderful little essay on why the proposed ban on Happy Meals misses the parenting point.

Whether you agree or disagree with MBHunter’s stance, you’ll find 8 outstanding tips on dealing properly with your kid’s “McNagging”. These tips extend well beyond the realm of Happy Meals. Keep them in mind as you mentor your child on good personal finance habits.

Read the commentary here.

In the Spirit of the Holidays: Donating to Charities and Avoiding Scams

Motherly Law serves up a thoughtful and thorough article with 12 excellent community giving suggestions for busy Moms and Dads (that’d be you!). Check’em out here.

Finally, I have a bonus video that pulls kids, delayed gratification, and charitable giving together in one nice Christmas package: Five year old Tenley Hollman forgoes her American Girl Doll for a wonderful holiday cause. Watch the video:

Maybe you’d like to contribute too?


Transform Your Child's Gimme Attitude into a Giving Attitude over the Holidays

Do your kids end up on just one end of the gift exchange during the holidays — the receiving end?

Here are some ideas for involving your child in the giving end and practicing some good personal finance habits long the way:

Video Transcript

Tis’ better to give than to receive, right? During the holidays, kids often end up on just one end of the gift exchange: the receiving end!

What’s the natural side effect of this lopsided situation? Perhaps a me-centric point of view? A growing sense of entitlement?

How can parents transform a “Gimme!” Attitude into a Giving Attitude?

Maybe it’s time to involve your kids more formally in the giving side of the gift equation. And while they’re learning the natural joy of giving, you can pass along a few budgeting fundamentals and a healthy appreciation for the value of a dollar.

Let’s see how a system like FamZoo can help you get organized.

Let’s say I’m the Dad in the mythical Tiger family. I’ll be working with Cub, the middle child.

Let’s start by working out a gift giving budget for Cub.

I sign into FamZoo as Dad, scroll down to the Budgets section on the Overview page, and click on the Create Budget link.

I’ll pick Cub as the owner of the budget.

I’ll name the budget “Holiday Gifts”.

To help us coordinate, I’ll set it up to send us text alerts whenever someone adds a comment to the budget.

When I click Create Budget, FamZoo sends me to the budget worksheet page.

Here I can start adding some items to the budget by typing them in at the top.

Many families have gift giving “rules” during the holidays that vary by family size or situation. In this example, let’s say the Tiger family guidelines are that each kid gives one “big” gift to another family member (perhaps drawing the name out of a hat), gives a medium gift to Gramma and Grandpa, and gives fun little token gifts for everybody in the immediate family.

The budget worksheet is a handy place to record and communicate these guidelines.

As a learning experience, let’s turn the budget over to Cub and let him propose some amounts for our budget items. I’ll leave a comment to that effect.

Cub signs in, scrolls down to his Budgets section, sees the Holiday Gifts budget, and clicks on it to go to the worksheet. He can move his mouse over an item and click on the pencil icon to edit it.

He’s seen the iPad on his sister’s shared wish list. That sounds cool, so he pops in $500 for her gift. He updates the other items as well.

OK, that should do it. He lets Dad know he’s ready to go by adding a comment to the budget.

Uh, yeah...Looks like this is a good time for a little fiscal reality chat with Cub. Maybe let Cub know that some or all of the gift-giving funds will be coming out of his own FamZoo Pocket Money account.

Maybe hop over to the Savings Planner to see just how many weeks of allowance it would take to cover the grand suggestions from our little “Mr. Magnanimous”.

Ok, that was a quick lesson. Let’s go back to the budget worksheet and start revising things to be a bit more reasonable. No more iPad for Big Sis — let’s keep it around 20 bucks. Let’s cut the little gifts figure to a couple of dollars each. And, let’s bring the “awesome-ness” down a notch for Grandma and Grandpa.

Now we’re talking. Time to hit the stores.

Before we do that though, one last thing.

Let’s set up a separate Holiday Gifts account where Cub can track his purchases.

As Dad, Click on the Create Account link in the Accounts section.

Select Cub as the owner.

Fill in a Name.

Set the Starting Balance to the amount — if any — that Mom & Dad are chipping in.

Let’s check the box that allows cub to enter the purchases on his own, but let’s stay informed with a text message on each entry.

Back on the Overview page, I can see the new account with the starting balance from Mom & Dad. I’ll use the + and - icons to transfer in the rest of the budgeted amount from Cub’s own Pocket Money account.

Now Cub can head off to do his own holiday shopping. He can use FamZoo to record the amounts, and monitor how much he has left in his budget. This can either be done from a mobile device right at the store, or later from a computer at home.

This year, you can bet he’ll enjoy delivering his personally selected gifts. You can also bet he’ll have a better appreciation for the gifts he receives.

So, that’s how FamZoo can help you transition your child from “Gimme!” to Giving, and build some good financial habits along the way.

From the FamZoo Crew to your family: Happy holidays!


Junior Investing, Kids Gone Mobile, 43 Steps to Frugal Kids, and Unleashing the Creative Beast: Weekly Family Finance Picks (#27)

This week’s picks run the gamut from investment related gifts for older kids to unleashing the “Creative Beast” in the bonus section. Here they are:

Top 7 Gifts for Teaching Older Kids About Money

Santa Mobile

Dan supplies his top 7 gift picks for teaching older kids about money. I love the “Family 401(k)” idea and I'm a huge fan of the Kahn Academy. I also like the idea of introducing kids to the concepts of investing and the risk vs. reward tradeoff.

If you’re thinking of an investment related gift for your child this year and want to look beyond Dan’s quick stock picks, here are two additional helpful resources: Stocking Stuffers: 10 Investments For Kids and Giving the Gift of Financial Knowledge.

Are Your Kids Ready for a Cell Phone?

Thinking about giving your child their first cell phone this holiday season? Jason delivers a nice round-up of issues to consider before taking the plunge.

We’ve always used middle school as our starting point, added the kids to our family plan, and had them pick up the tab for any overrages as well as monthly cell phone insurance (or the full cost of a replacement — now that’s always a quick lesson!).

What are your guidelines?

43 Ways to Teach Your Child the Importance of Frugality

Guest Post by Ashley G of Coupon Sherpa on Travel Wires

I liked the ability to quickly scan this solid list of 43 brief bullet-point style tips for teaching kids to be frugal. Definitely some good ones in there. As a father of 5, I had to chuckle at #33 — so true!

And, last but not least, some bonus media for you this week.

You’ll love this presentation from Betsy Streeter. It just won the Best Presentation Contest on Slideshare in the Creative category. Flip through it now, and encourage the “Creative Beast” in your youngster today.


FamZoo Made Stick Figure Simple

What’s FamZoo all about?

According to Mike Davenport over at Stick Figure Simple, this is what FamZoo’s all about:

Having trouble viewing the presentation? View it in Flickr here

Make sense?

Wanna see what FamZoo looks like in more than 1 dimension? Check out the FamZooDotCom YouTube Channel.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#26)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. We’re up to 770 now! Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week features fake chores from real professions, the ins-and-outs of custodial accounts, and cr@ppy jobs for kids:

Groundbreaking Twist On Traditional Allowance

Here’s a very clever allowance strategy for young kids that I’d never heard of: pay your youngsters modest sums for sets of chores modeled after actual tasks culled from real professions — Art Teacher, Zoologist, Toy Designer, etc. This article previews an upcoming book that lays out the details for doing just that. It’s called Earn It, Learn It by Alicia T. Weinstein.

Art Teacher Task List

You can find out more about the book on EarnMyKeep.com. Alicia’s site includes a thorough sneak peek — table of contents, intro, and two career profiles. Check out the PDF here.

Weighing a Custodial Account for Your Kid

Quite some time ago, the grandparents set up custodial accounts for our kids to teach them investing concepts — very thoughtful, generous, and educational! If you or your relatives are considering a similar move, Bill’s quick five point article provides an excellent overview of the legal and tax implications. I learned a few things. Read it here.

Tie Allowance to Chores or Not?

OK, so this topic’s been done to death. But, what sparked my keen interest here was the raging debate in the comments on whether it’s morally acceptable to offer a six year old the optional extra paid chore of scooping dog poops at less than minimum wage — a real “cra@p” job so to speak! (I was tempted to base my blog graphic on this entry, but wiser thinking prevailed.) See the back and forth commentary here.

By the way, I like MBHunter’s hybrid system of a modest allowance coupled with extra paid chores — whether cr@ppy or not.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#25)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

It was a quiet week out on the Internet for family finance articles with people gearing up for and then recovering from the holiday in the US. So, we’ll go with just one pick that’s in keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving:

Making Gratitude the New Attitude

Nothing Like a Little Fall FootballI love the notion of expressing gratitude for the little things in life — like playing catch with a football on a crisp Fall afternoon. Taking the time to instill that concept in your kids is even better.

Andrea’s guest post shares 11 terrific suggestions for “promoting an attitude of gratitude” in your kids (and yourself). Check ’em out here.

And, if you’d like to dig deeper, check out her new book too.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#24)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week, we’ve got some stats, a solid chore scheme, a cool new web tool, and, yep, another bonus video:

Financial Literacy Top of Mind for Parents Post-Recession

When Should Parents Start Teaching Kids About Money Matters?Where do American parents stand on issues related to teaching their kids about money? Looks like most agree that starting young makes a lot of sense.

The COUNTRY survey on financial literacy — a telephone survey of 1,188 adults — asked the following 6 questions:

  • How would you rate communication with your children on the subject of financial matters?
  • At what age do you think a parent should start teaching their child about money matters?
  • How confident are you that you have the knowledge to educate your children about personal finance?
  • Is the school where your children are enrolled doing enough to educate them about basic money management?
  • Have current economic conditions caused you to focus more on educating your children about personal finance?
  • How honest are you about the state of your family finances with your child?

One of the biggest gaps between mom and dad responses was on that last question: 62.5% of men indicated they’re “very honest” about the state of family finances with their children vs. a lower 53.6% of women. Hmmm, interesting... Do you think the guys were being honest about their honesty? ;-)

See the rest of the survey data here.

Do My Kids Have Chores? pffft

I like this mom’s well-organized chore rotation schedule for her teens. See it here. I enjoyed her wry sense of humor too — probably a survival characteristic of all parents with teens. Works for me.

Pricing Used Goods for Sale

It’s not unusual for my kids to want to raise a little cash by selling a no-longer-cherished item on eBay. Often, we have no idea what to put for the starting bid. Jennifer’s article covers a neat new solution to that problem. Check it out here.

And, finally, the bonus video is becoming a habit. Here’s one for this week from CBS MoneyWatch that reinforces one of my favorite concepts — the budget-based allowance:


How to Make a Wish List in FamZoo and Share it with Your Family

The Checklist capability in FamZoo isn’t just for tracking your kid’s chores. It’s actually a very general purpose tool for tracking all kinds of lists and sharing them within your family.

Our latest How To video shows how you can use FamZoo checklists as wish lists for upcoming birthdays and holidays. Check it out here. (Don’t miss the surprise cameo appearance by Mick Jagger at the end!)

You can find our other How To videos and more on the FamZoo YouTube Channel.

Video Transcript

Do you have a wish list for the gifts you’d love to get on your next birthday or over the holidays?

Turn your wish list into a FamZoo checklist, and you’ll be able to easily share it with other members of your family. You can even set it up so they’ll be automatically notified whenever you add something new.

Here’s how you do it.

Suppose I’m a kid in the Tiger family, and I’m signed into my FamZoo account.

That’s me right there.

To create my Wish List, I just scroll down to the Checklist overview section and click on the Create link.

Up comes the Create Checklist form.

I’ll give my wish list a name, and I’ll decide who to share it with.

I can give it a description too.

After clicking Create List, I see my new, empty list selected and ready to go under the Checklist tab.

I can see the name of my list, it’s description, who I’m sharing it with, and the fact that it doesn’t have any items yet.

Notice I can move between my lists (and any lists shared with me) by clicking on the name up in the header and selecting another list from the pull-down menu.

So let’s go back to my empty Wish List and start filling it up with items.

Click on one of the Add Item links and a form pops up. I can fill in a description and click Add Item or just hit the return key to add it to my list.

Let’s add another one.

To edit an item, just move your mouse over it and click on the pencil icon when it appears. You can make your changes in the popup edit form.

Likewise, to delete an item, mouse over it and click on the trash can icon.

If I actually receive a gift on my list, I can just check it off like this.

I suppose if someone takes it back, I can uncheck it too.

I can send my list to a lucky family member by clicking on the Send link in the Actions section.

Pick someone in the family. Edit the message if you like. And send it along.

Here’s what my message looks like in Dad’s email inbox.

Now, suppose I want to alert my poor family members right away whenever I add a new wish to my list. I just click on the Alerts link in the sidebar. Up comes a form where I can set up a bunch of different alerts for this list. I’ll click on “Add An Alert” under “Whenever an item on this list is added” to set up a text alert for Dad. I’ll click it again to add an Email alert for Mom. Then, I’ll Save ’em.

Now, when I add a new item, like this.

Dad will immediately receive a nice little alert on his mobile phone - like that. And Mom will get a similar email, too.

Whenever Dad wants to see everything that’s currently my wish list, he can just sign into FamZoo, look for the list I shared with him, and click on it. There it is.

So that’s how you create and share wish lists in FamZoo.

Good luck with your wishes, but remember what Mick says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you’ll get what you need.”


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#23)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week, our picks feature chore battle strategies, tips for parents with iPhone/iPad wielding kids, charitable project suggestions for the upcoming holidays, and a couple of bonus videos.

The Big Bad Chore Wolf

Winning the Chore Battle

Do you skirmish with your kids over chores? (If not, what’s your secret??!!) Sheila shares some excellent practical tips in her article on winning the chore battle.

How to Keep Your Kids from Bankrupting You with App Store Spending

by PatrickJ on iSource.com

Do your kids access games or music using your iPhone or iPad? You’ll want to review this article before they rack up some unexpected bills.

Christmas Jar

The [Insert-holiday-name-here] Jar is a neat idea for introducing youngsters to philanthropy in a tangible, hands-on way. Read Kelli’s article here, and get started now before you’re overwhelmed with holiday prep. Don’t miss the article’s comment section for some additional suggestions.

For those who like video, a couple of bonus picks this week:

We had a brief, but nice mention in the Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine last week. WooHoo! The blurb included a webisode from the Secret Millionaires Club featuring a cartoon Warren Buffet dispensing basic business and financial advice in a kid friendly format. The video seemed pretty catchy to me. See what your kids think:

And lastly, I stumbled upon a collection of short videos by Rene Hackney on teaching your kids about money. Here’s the first segment in the series:

You can find the remainder of the 10 part series here.


Kids: Make Your Own Secret Code Font

Can you read this message?

Secret Message for 11/11/2010

Of course you can’t! That’s because it’s written in a secret code. One created by my very own little secret agent.

What kid doesn’t like passing messages around in secret code? My 8 year old is no exception. A few months back, he created this secret code:

The Circle Code

The problem is, writing coded messages by hand takes a loooong time. But yesterday, he had a brilliant idea: “Dad, let’s create a special font so I can just type my messages in on the computer and print them out.” Yeah, that would be awesome! Then he could crank out tons of secret messages!

How the heck did he come up with that idea? And, how do you pull it off anyway? A while back, I stumbled upon a site called Fontifier that let’s you turn your handwriting into a custom font. Then you can install your custom font on your PC or Mac and use it in your favorite writing and drawing programs. Really cool.

The steps are straightforward — download a template, fill it in, scan it, and upload the scanned image. Fontifier will show you a preview of your font right there in your browser. If you like it, you can pay 9 bucks to download the custom font file, which you can then install on your computer. The steps are all well documented on the site. Also, here’s an old review on lifehacker.com with some good tips.

Here's a sample of the font we created with my son’s decorative lettering:

Custom Kid Font

So how do you create the secret code font? Just follow all the same steps for creating a regular handwriting font, but when you download the template, just have your little secret agent fill in a secret symbol in place of each letter. The template will serve as the key for the code. Here’s my son’s:

Secret Code Font

By the way, I highly recommend creating a custom font out of your youngster’s handwriting as well. It’s a wonderful way to capture some memories, and it’s fun for writing notes to grandma and grandpa, making custom cards, making custom T-Shirts (here’s one of my favorite examples) and any number of other digital art projects.

So, did you crack my son’s code and figure out his secret message at the top of this post yet? (Hint: use the new key in the fontifier template above)

Have fun!


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#22)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week, it’s boomerang kids, collaborative savings, and personal finance books for kids (plus a couple of bonus items):

Guiding a Child to Financial Independence

by Beth Kobliner on The New York Times

IMG_4045Considering that FamZoo is all about preparing kids for the “wild” — i.e., equipping kids with the skills they need to make it on their own in the real world — this New York Times article really got my attention last week. It opens with a Mom explaining how delighted she was that her daughter moved back home after college — along with her boyfriend no less (whom the daughter apparently graciously “invited”).


We love our kids dearly, but I shudder at the thought of all five of them boomeranging back to our doorstep after college. And with boyfriends and girlfriends in tow? Um, no. What ever happened to freshly minted graduates banding together as roommates after school and eating Top Ramen to keep rent and food expenses low?

According to Beth, we should “expect children to move home” after college. In fact, she cites a survey that found 85% of college graduates last spring plan to do so just that. Uh oh! Maybe I’m too harsh, but that is not an expectation I have any intention of setting, no matter what the statistics say.

When it comes to adult children, my love is unconditional, but my financing is not — don’t confuse the two!

Read the article here and see what you think.

Teaching Kids About Saving Money with SmartyPig

Many FamZoo families like to periodically roll their child’s virtual savings account balances over to a real world savings account. This article introduces another interesting option — SmartyPig. It’s an online savings account that makes it easy for family and friends to contribute toward your child’s savings goal.

Read the post and check out this intro video:

Best Books on Personal Finance for Your Kids

Want to throw a couple of books with personal finance messages into the reading mix for your kids? I know, sounds hideously dull, but it doesn’t have to be. Aaron has just compiled a list of recommendations for you here.

I like the one that explains what would happen if money really did grow on trees.

And, last but not least, a couple honorable mentions this week for those who like to watch quick videos or listen to short streaming audio:

First, the video: a nice little summary of allowance and chore approaches. It’s a local news segment that features an interview with Angela Ardolino, founder of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

On the audio front, here’s an amusing, brief interview with Robert Wilder, the author of Daddy Needs a Drink. The title of the segment is “Parenting on the Edge: What is the right amount of allowance?”. Listen to it here.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#21)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

The picks for this week are:

A Father’s Acceptance: His Son Won’t Be Following His Ivy Footsteps

Worried about the path your child is on?

College is looming somewhere out there in the distance for your kids. Ever fretted about the path your child is on? Do you find yourself comparing it to your own? Who doesn’t, at least just a little...

You’ll appreciate this thought-provoking essay in the New York Times. Check out the follow up post as well which responds to some of the best reader comments on “high-octane” parents and their “blessedly decaffeinated” kids.

Charity: How to Teach Your Kids to Give

Sometimes, the concept of charitable giving is just way too abstract for kids. How can we make it less mechanical, more human, and more tangible? Stacey provides some good suggestions here.

Two other suggestions that might fit well with your family:

The Above and Below Average 529 Plans

Considering opening a 529 account for your child’s college fund? Jennifer summarizes the latest Morningstar ratings to help you choose the best 529 plans and avoid the worst.


New Feature: Keep Me Signed In

You may have noticed a new option at the bottom of the FamZoo Sign-in screen. It’s a check box called “Keep me signed in.” If you check this box before clicking on the “Sign In” button, you’ll stay signed in to your FamZoo account when using the current browser. That means you won’t have to enter your user names and password each time you come back. On mobile devices (Android, iPhone, iPod Touch), we now keep you signed in automatically, so you won’t see this option there.

Keep Me Signed In Option

Whenever you’d like to explicitly sign out, just click on the “Sign Out” link beneath your family name in the right-hand side bar of the page.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#20)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

This week’s picks: stick figures, allowance with no strings attached, and tips from real moms. Here they are:

Is the Reward System Smart?

Reward Systems

“Ninja” posts a witty and provocative commentary on the use of reward systems with kids. It’s based on his wife’s experiences in the classroom but crosses over to kids at home, allowances, chores, etc.

Don’t miss the comments. There are several thoughtful ones from parents, teachers, and even researchers (like this one).

As an added bonus, Ninja’s stick figure cartoons are pretty darn entertaining. If you like ’em and want to see more, check out his Stick Figure Blog.

Allowance: For Learning or Reward?

by Gail Vaz-Oxlade Guest posting on Get Rich Slowly

Gail, who’s back on our list from last week, also weighs in on the rewards and allowance topic. She shares her definitive opinions on the age old debate of whether or not allowances should be tied to chores. Check out Gail’s defense for why allowances should “come with no strings attached,” and see how readers reacted in the comments.

Ask DSM Readers: How Do Allowances Work in Your Home?

Tara asks her readers to share descriptions of how allowances work in their homes. She gets a number of thoughtful tips and stories from a variety of Moms. See them here.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#19)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous week and post them here.

Intergenerational relationships, perspectives on teen clothing allowances, and teaching kids about savings are on tap this week:

The Ending of an Era, Can It Be Stopped?

In this short essay, Samantha, a mom of two, reflects on the passing of her grandfather. Thought provoking topics include intergenerational relationships (something I wrote about in a 2006 post), money & values, entitlement, and the impact of technology on the family.

My favorite quote in the post was this one:

The best gift we can give our children is the foundation of life lessons that will make them great people.

Whether you agree or not with Samantha’s take on each point, all of these topics are good food for thought for any parent.

What Does an Allowance Pay For?

Are you thinking of using a clothing allowance as a way to teach your teen about spending within a budget? Then don’t miss this article. Be sure to scan through the comments for lots of great tips and (sometimes divergent) opinions.

By the way, I highly recommend doing this with your teens. It’s been a great learning experience for ours.

Teaching the ABCs of Savings

Gail presents three simple, yet great, points to make with your kids about saving. Excellent advice for parents as well. She tops it off with some helpful tips on matching techniques to motivate your child to get in the saving habit. Read her article here.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#18)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous 7 days and post them here.

The allowance vs. commission debate, college savings strategies, and healthy skepticism are the winners this week. Here they are:

Allowance vs. Commission: Which Works Better for your Kids?

Allowance Vs. ChoresDavid and his wife struggled with consistency, accountability, and ownership issues when they rolled out their first allowance system to their two kids, ages 7 and 9. Now they’ve switched over to a “daily commission-able chore list” approach and licked all those problems.

But, have they created new ones? Is the approach sustainable?

Check out David’s system. Be sure to browse through the reader reactions in the comments as well. You might want to weigh in with your own experiences and opinions in this age old debate.

College Savings: the Basics of Saving for College

Sierra lays out the basic best practices for putting together a sensible, achievable college savings plan for your kids. Start early, contribute often, get your debt/savings priorities right, and leverage those 529s.

Check out some good nuggets in the comments too about 529 account funding order for multiple kids

The Big Short Offers Six Great Money Lessons for Kids

Dan distills six money lessons for kids from the book The Big Short. The book is about the failure of our banking system — material that might be too disturbing for children in unfiltered form!

The core message from Dan: teach your kids to maintain a healthy skepticism — especially when it comes to making financial decisions.

Wise advice for young and old.


Customize Your Accounts and Allowances

Did you know that you can fully customize your Virtual Family Bank setup in FamZoo? Most families just stick with one of the standard configurations stamped out by our Quick Start page. In fact, many families I’ve talked to don’t even realize that you can create any arrangement of accounts and allowances you like.

Our latest HowTo video shows how you can take a standard configuration from our Quick Start, and customize it to your heart’s content. Watch it here:

Video Transcript

You’ve probably gone through our Quick Start bank screen to set up your kid’s accounts and allowances in a pretty standard way.

But now, you want to change something. You want to customize your virtual bank.

Maybe you want to change some names, tweak some settings, allocate allowances differently between accounts, add some new accounts & allowances, or even get rid of some existing ones.

Let’s see how you do that with a simple example.

Let’s assume you started with the popular Spend-Save-Give option from our Quick Start. That’s the one with a single allowance split between three accounts which, by default, are named General Spending, Long Term Savings, and Charitable Giving.

Suppose you want to change this standard “three bucket” approach into your own custom “four bucket” approach where the 4 accounts are: a Pocket Money account for spending on small everyday stuff, a new Big Purchases account where saving happens for occasional “big ticket items” like a bike or a smart phone or a laptop, a College Savings account to help save for future college expenses - perhaps with matching contributions from Mom & Dad, and a Charitable Giving account just like before.

Let’s start by creating the new account for “Big Purchases”.

On the Overview page, look for the CREATE ACCOUNT link in the footer of the Account Balances section.

Click on it, pick the child to own the account, and fill in the fields like name, category, starting balance, and so on.

Click the Create Account button, and you’ll see the new fourth account back in the overview.

Now, let’s change the name of the existing spending account from “General Spending” to the more specific “Pocket Money”.

Click on the GO TO ACCOUNTS link in the footer of the Account Balances overview. That’ll take us to the Accounts listing page under the Bank tab.

Find the General Spending account in the listing, and hover your mouse over it until you see the pencil and trash can icons appear.

Click on the pencil to go to the form for editing the account’s settings.

Type in “Pocket Money” for the new name and click the Save button.

Let’s follow the same steps to change the name of the “Long Term Savings Account” to “College Savings”.

There. We have our four accounts named just the way we want ’em.

Now, we need to update the existing allowance to flow into all four accounts instead of just the original three.

Find the Allowances link in the Viewing section of the left hand side bar. Click on it to go to the Allowance listing page.

Hover over the allowance, and click on the pencil to get to the form for editing its settings.

In addition to the name, the amount formula, and some other settings, we can change how the allowance flows into the various accounts.

Let’s adjust the percentages to make sure a healthy amount will flow into our new Big Purchases savings account.

Click on the Save button, and we’ll see the allowance is now being allocated between all four buckets.

So how ’bout that matching giving for college savings? Let’s do that automatically by creating a new allowance.

Click on the Create link in the left hand side bar. Pick the child, give the allowance an appropriate name, and fill in the other fields so that: the amount matches the 10% that the child is putting in and 100% of the matching allowance flows into the College Savings account.

Click the Create Allowance button, and our custom 4 bucket system with matching college savings is all ready to go.

Oh, and what if you want to delete an account or allowance? Just fly over it in the listing page and click on the trash can. Don’t worry, we’ll always ask you to confirm before we actually delete it.

And that’s how you customize your accounts and allowances in FamZoo.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#17)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous 7 days and post them here.

From appreciating the simple things in life to accepting credit cards at your kid’s corner lemonade stand, we’re all over the map this week:

Raising Grateful Kids

I love the concept of being thankful for what you have and instilling that notion in our kids. That's what drew me to Vivian’s post about "On Gratitude" - a new book by Todd Aaron Jensen.

The book contains a collection interviews with 51 celebrities. OK, normally, not my favorite subject matter, but these celeb profiles are different. The interview question? What are you thankful for? Initially skeptical, I read through some of the profiles on the Amazon preview - like Ray Bradbury's - and found them to be quite fascinating.

Lots of kids are drawn to celebrities, so this might be a clever, engaging way to introduce them to the concept of being grateful for the non-material things in life. It might be fun to read the book together.

I'm still searching around for a couple more detailed reviews before I pull the trigger on purchasing the book. There are actually a set of negative ratings on Amazon right now, but they all seem to be associated with some mix-up regarding an incomplete pre-order version of the Kindle download.

Anyway, even if the book falls short (in spite of the excellent snippets I read), I love the concept, and Vivian’s post summarizes some nice suggestions for creating “gratitude opportunities” with your kids.

Debit Cards: Think Before You Swipe

With more parents putting debit and prepaid cards in the hands of their teens, it makes sense for both parent and teen to understand your exposure when it comes to a lost or stolen card. How does it compare with your liability for a lost or stolen credit card? If you’re considering going this route with your teen, you’ll want to read up on some of the details and loopholes outlined in Karen’s article. You might just want to read it (and the comments) for your own edification too.

A Simple Swipe on a Phone, and You’re Paid

Put that Lemonade on my Credit Card, Please!

Imagine your kid setting up a lemonade stand that accepts not only cash, but credit cards too. Sound crazy? It might actually be right around the corner. Check out David’s article and see how.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#16)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous 7 days and post them here.

Oops! I’m a bit late getting the picks out this time. Sorry ’bout that! Here are our favorites from the preceding week:

If You Give a 7-year-old $100…

056/365/2010 [easy come easy go]

I loved Julie’s story about her Mother-Son bonding weekend in New York City with her 7 year old and ...“The Benjamin” — aka the $100 bill. It’s a funny, instructive account of her son’s transformation from spendthrift to saver (with a little clever assistance from Mom & Dad). A great teachable moment.

Three Money Lessons From Teenagers

This is a follow-on to Laura’s Six Ways to Teach Your Children About Money post that we featured here a couple weeks back. The sequel post was prompted by her own kids. They came up with a few savvy recommendations that Mom missed the first time around. I’d say the Dogu kids are on the right personal finance track. Well done, Mom.

The Family Department Of Taxation & Finance

Check out Bella’s unique allowance and chore system which she dubs “The Family Department of Taxation & Finance”. Read about how she weaves together a set of components — expected tasks, behavior dings, extra job opportunities, and mom grants — to form a creative financial education system for her child.

Oh yeah, and here’s the other cool thing: Bella was able to implement her custom system in FamZoo using a clever combination of accounts and checklists. Nice!


A Peek In The Lab: iPhone App (Phase 1)

Lots of folks have asked about iPhone and Droid versions of FamZoo. Yep, we’re working on those right now!

We’re keeping things pretty simple in our first versions. You’ll be able to browse account balances as well as review, add, edit, and delete transactions (deposits and withdrawals).

Want to see our work-in-progress? Watch this video:

In the meantime, did you know you can communicate with FamZoo from your mobile phone right now using simple text messages? All you have to do is add your mobile phone number to your member settings and text one of our FamZoo Quick Commands to the phone number 41411.

Don’t know about our Quick Commands? Visit the Mobile tab and look in the right side bar for a quick reference. Try’em out right there on the same page using our mobile phone simulator. Quick tip: try creating shortcuts for your most common commands. For example, using a shortcut, I can check my son’s spending account by just texting FAMZ followed by his first initial. Really quick and easy.


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#15)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous 7 days and post them here.

The picks for this week are:

Delayed Gratification and the Secret to Will Power

Delayed Gratification

Jessica’s article touches on the famous “marshmallow experiment” and the positive side-effects of being able to delay gratification. When it comes to saving, do we have to develop super-human will power to defeat our natural instant gratification impulses? Not necessarily. Jessica suggests it’s more about using some simple tricks to distract yourself from your spending impulses. FamZoo uses these same techniques to help parents build solid saving habits in their kids.

Philosophy vs. Reality

I really enjoyed Mir’s witty, well-written post about her new allowance approach and the benefits of having an automated, online, cash-less system. She shares some entertaining commentary on the age-old question of whether to tie chores to allowance. Her approach: she delivers regular allowance independent of chores, but docks the kids for non-compliance. I’ve always rather liked that middle-ground model.

For their allowance system, they happen to use a hand-crafted solution built using Google Docs by her “handsome and wonderful—albeit geeky” husband “Otto”. That’s completely OK with me though. Hey, you gotta respect “geeky” spouses! Whether you use a packaged solution like FamZoo or roll your own using anything from spreadsheets to pencil & paper, the key thing is to have a system and to use it in a way that consistently reinforces your family’s values.

What Kids Should Know About Money At 9, 13, 18 and 23

Dan provides some nice detailed advice for teaching key money lessons as your child matures through the elementary, middle-school, high school and college years. Check out the advice sections at each stage, and see how you’re doing as a money mentor.

Bonus Pick

Got a few minutes to fritter away? Check out this “Financial Game of Life” animation from BillShrink.com. Just click on “Spin”.


How To Change Your Member Settings in FamZoo

We’re producing a set of short How-To videos for embedding within the FamZoo application. Here’s our first one: “How To Change Passwords, Sign-in Names and Other Member Settings”:

Got feedback? We’d love to hear it.


National Money Night Talk: Car Costs 101

The Money Night Talk High School Exercise: Car Costs 101
Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, tomorrow is the National Money Night Talk event. The materials on the site include an exercise for High School age kids called “Car Costs 101”. It’s enlightening.

One way to bring the exercise to life is to capture it in a FamZoo budget. Click on the image to the right to see the weekly, monthly, and annual costs for a teen purchasing and driving a typical used car.

It’s pretty eye-opening (if not eye-popping)!

A few things I learned along the way:

  • Car registration fees vary wildly by state. Check out this study put out by the state of Idaho for 2008. Some serious variance there!
  • Teen car insurance is insanely expensive. You can get a general sense from this bar chart.
  • California leads the pack in gas prices (OK, no surprise there). You can see average prices by state here.

This Thursday is National Money Night

This Thursday, September 16, is The National Money Night Talk event presented by American Express and finance expert Jean Chatzky. The idea is to sit down with your kids and have a discussion about personal finance basics. The goal: improve the odds of them enjoying a better financial future. Sounds good!

They’ve collected a set of nice resources for parents on the site that include videos, talking points, and exercises. The resources are conveniently organized by age level: middle school, high school, and college.

If you’re a FamZoo family, you’re probably already living many of these discussions in a hands-on way. For example, the middle school exercise “Let’s Set Some Goals” maps nicely to Savings Goals and the Savings Planner in FamZoo. It involves a discussion about how long it takes to save for a new bike with varying levels of weekly saving.

Here’s how to experience the exercise in FamZoo:

Check out rest of the materials on their site, and, if you aren’t already doing it, make sure you have “The Talk” with your kids. (Yeah, sure, you should have that other talk too, but that’s outside our area of expertise...not to mention our comfort zone.)


Weekly Family Finance Picks (#14)

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit the FamZoo delicious page to see our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks. Each week, we pick our favorite articles from the previous 7 days and post them here.

The picks for this week are:

Sweep Long Term Savings

Where a Bank Watcher Banks
by Jennifer Saranow Schultz
on The New York Times Bucks Blog

Lately, I’ve been looking around for the most convenient way to periodically take my kid’s virtual long term savings account balances in FamZoo and roll them over to real world savings accounts. Jennifer’s article might just point to the solution I’ve been looking for: Orange Savings Accounts at ING Direct. The particular points of interest for me are: opening an account looks really easy, you can create any number of "sub-accounts" under a single login, no fees, no minimums, and attractive interest rates (relatively speaking).

I did some additional searching around and found these two nice articles on fivecentnickel.com that explain using the ING Direct "sub-accounts" as a place to sweep your kid’s long term savings virtual balances:

I’m going to give this a try in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

10 Traits of Debt-Free People (of Modest Means)
by Len Penzo
guest posting on MSN Smart Spending Blog

Len’s article lists the key traits that separate the "financially free" from the "financially inept". OK, as an engineer, I’ll admit that I was naturally drawn to the first trait: being detail oriented. My own nerdy biases aside, I still think it’s an excellent list.

Where do you stand on these traits? Are you modeling these traits to your kids? Do you discuss them explicitly? Good food for thought.

Six Ways to Teach Your Children About Money
by Laura F. Dogu
on Forbes Personal Finance Blog

Laura is a top contributor over at the Bogleheads forum: an online community dedicated to “the civil discussion of investing, personal finance, and consumer issues.” She shares her six favorite suggestions for teaching kids critical financial skills — including taking “taxes” out of your kid’s allowances.

We haven’t imposed allowance taxes in our family to date, but it sounds like a reasonable idea as long as you take the tax money and spend it on something enjoyed by the whole family as described in last week’s DadCents video post.

How many of Laura’s suggestions have you implemented with your kids?


Create Your Own "Dad Cents" Family Bank with FamZoo

Every family has it own little nuances, and there’s no one “right way” to prepare your kids for the real world.

That’s why making it easy to customize FamZoo has been a core design principle from the outset. You should be able to configure your Virtual Family Bank in a way that makes sense for your family and your unique values.

The following video is just one example of how you can customize FamZoo to match a unique perspective. Has you family customized FamZoo to emphasize a particular value, perspective, or technique? If you’re comfortable sharing, we’d love to hear about it!

Here’s a transcript of the video:

Hey everybody! Bill Dwight here from FamZoo.com.

Just recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Shane Barkley, the author of Dad Cents - Teach Your Children the Biblical Principles of Money.

We talked for hours. And the more we talked, the more excited we got.

That’s because it became clear that FamZoo is a really easy way to take the principles described in Shane’s book and put them into into practice with your family.

Let’s take just one simple example. In Chapter 18, Shane introduces the “60% Rule”. That’s the idea of learning to live on 60% of your income. In other words, just 60% goes towards spending. Where does the rest go? Giving, saving, and taxes.

In his book, Shane recommends introducing your kids to the 60% rule early on. How? Divide their allowance into different parts or categories for spending, giving, saving and taxes.

Taxes on kids? Yep! I know what you’re thinking. My first reaction was, hey, I don’t want to tax my kids! But, the more I thought about it - Shane’s approach makes a lot of sense.

It warms kids up to that unavoidable concept and makes their first real paycheck experience less of a shock. But more importantly, the pooled tax money goes to an outing or an item that’s fun for the family. Everyone (parents too!) chips in for the benefit of the whole family. That’s a good thing.

Now, to track all this stuff — how allowances are being divvied up into categories, how much is currently in each one, interest you’re awarding on savings, and so on — Shane recommends setting up a system he refers to as the Family Bank.

Now you can do all this on a spreadsheet (like I used to do), or even pencil and paper. But, this is where FamZoo comes into the picture. We make it super easy to set up your own Dadcents Family Bank. We automate everything we can — like allowance and interest delivery. And the cool thing is that you and your kids can access it online from a browser, or from a cell phone when you’re on the go. Plus we have all kinds of extra built-in tools to help you teach your kids good personal finance habits. You start really simple and then get more and more sophisticated as they grow from young kids to tweens to teens.

So, let me show you how easy it is to set up your own Dad Cents Family Bank on FamZoo.

After registering your family on FamZoo and adding your family members, you’re ready to set up your family bank.

We have a simple wizard that walks you through some of the most common bank setups.

One setup, the Spend-Save-Give plan, is a pretty close match to the Dad Cents approach. We’ll start there and then make a few additions. Let’s update the account names to match what’s in the book. Let’s set the interest rate on the savings to be pretty aggressive and monthly as Shane recommends.

Click on save and we’re almost there. You can see we have a three-way split in allowance right now, so let’s make a couple of tweeks to exactly match the Dad Cents approach.

First, let’s add an additional Giving account for the special Offerings. As Shane describes in the book, this will be for periodic donations to charitable projects of your child’s choosing.

Second, let’s add an account for the family Taxes.

Now, all we have to do is edit the allowance and update the split percentages to match what’s suggested in the book.

That’s it. We’re all set to go.

Back on the Overview page, we can see that weekly allowances are automatically scheduled to be delivered each Friday.

Likewise, monthly interest payments are automatically scheduled for delivery.

Now, if your child needs to make a withdrawal for a purchase or a donation, just click on the minus button next to the right account. You hand the money over to your child (or pay for the item yourself using whatever means is appropriate) and deduct that amount from their account.

In the case of a deposit, your kid hands the money over to you. You click on the plus button to credit the right account and put the real money wherever appropriate. Just remember, like a real bank, you owe the balance to your depositor. It’s your kid’s money and you need to be able to redeem it upon request.

So, that’s a very quick intro to setting up your own Dad Cents bank in FamZoo.

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hestitate to contact us at FamZoo.com.

Or, you can contact Shane at DadCents.com.

Thanks for watching, and we look forward to hearing from you!