How to Help Your Kids Visualize Spending Decisions

Visualizing Spending Impact with a Balance ChartHow do you encourage your kids to be less impulsive and more thoughtful when it comes to spending decisions? Recent FamZoo dad, Mike R., has a wonderful, visual approach that he uses with his youngsters. Here’s how he described it to me in an email exchange last week:

From: Mike R.

I’d like to make a small feature request and hope this is the right place. We’re fairly new to FamZoo and it is working well for us, but I’ve found that it really helps my kids visualize the impact of their spending by seeing a line graph of their balance. I find myself copying the transactions into excel and creating a line graph so they can see their balance go up/down and relate it to their decisions. If you could add something like this to FamZoo, it would be appreciated.

Thanks, Mike

At first, I thought Mike might have just missed the Balance History page in FamZoo which shows a plot of your child’s monthly closing balance over time. So, I responded with:

From: Bill D.


First, thanks so much for using FamZoo with your family. We’re delighted to hear it’s working well for your kids.

Thanks also for taking the time to describe your feature request. I just wanted to check to make sure you’re aware of the Balance History page that shows a bar chart of the closing balance for each month. Here’s a screenshot:


If you are, and it isn’t filling the need, can you tell me a little more about the line chart you’re creating? Do you compute a closing balance for a certain interval - like a day - or do you just have a point for each transaction and not worry about evenly spacing things in time? I’d love to see a screen shot if you’re comfortable sharing.

Many thanks for your feedback!


Mike was kind enough to include a nice screenshot along with a thoughtful, eloquent description of why his approach is so much more compelling than our summary chart for youngsters:

From: Mike R.


Thanks for the quick response. I have seen the bar chart and maybe it’s because my kids are pretty young, but the bar chart is hard for them to grasp — “X transactions combined over the last month to result in Y.” The feedback/correlation just isn’t there for them.

I attached an example of what I make for them. The conversation is generally: “you had $15 but you chose to buy that book at the book fair so you went all the way down to $1. Then you started saving your allowances until you decided to purchase X.” Etc, etc. They see how their individual decisions directly impact their bottom line. Something like this for the last X (10?) transactions would be wonderful.


Visualizing Spending Impact with a Balance Chart

Awesome. I absolutely love Mike’s approach! I can clearly see how it is more tangible for the kids, and how it facilitates a more meaningful discussion. There are also lots of neat ways we can enhance Mike’s approach when we build it directly into FamZoo. Just a few quick ideas that come to mind:

  • Color code the plotted points for each transaction — red for debits and green for credits.
  • Show the detail of the transaction — description, amount — when you fly over it with the mouse.
  • Jump to the appropriate transaction in the Transactions page when you click on a plotted point.
  • Perhaps make the size of the plotted point proportional to the amount of the credit or debit to make it easier to discern relative amounts.
  • Allow the user to easily adjust the date range interactively using the same pagination controls we use on our Transactions page.

We can’t wait to get started!

How about you? Do you have a clever suggestion for how we can improve the way we help parents teach kids good money habits? If so, please leave a comment below or contact us anytime.

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How Credit Unions Can Fill the Youth Financial Education Gap

Credit Unions truly care about youth financial education. Why? It’s part of their community-oriented DNA (more here). As Edward A. Filene, the father of the American credit union movement, succinctly put it: “Credit unions are educational institutions.”

That’s why some of the biggest, brightest minds in the credit union industry have already started rolling out our new FamZoo Partner Edition as an innovative, effective way to fill the gaping educational void between the piggy bank and the check book. (Want to know what those folks had to say about us? You can read their unfiltered comments here.)

Will your credit union be joining the youth financial education thought leaders in 2012?

To schedule a live demo for your credit union, CLICK HERE.

It’s easy. Check out the quick slide show below. You can also view it directly on Flickr and slideshare, or you can download the presentation in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

NOTE: For best results, view in full screen mode.

Here are the details:

Bridge the Youth Financial Gap with FamZooSlide 1 of 18: The Gap. There’s a huge educational gap between the piggy bank and the commercial checking account. As with any significant skill, mastering personal finance requires instruction and practice — lots of practice.

The piggy bank is a good first start for the very young, but it quickly runs out of steam as an educational tool. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the traditional checking account is designed for adults and presumes considerable amounts of knowledge and maturity. Mistakes can be costly and carry lasting implications.

To learn the financial ropes, kids need something in between: a solution that teaches progressively more sophisticated personal finance skills through real experiences without onerous punishment for the inevitable failures. Mistakes must be considered an opportunity for learning, not profit. Also, since money and values are so deeply intertwined, kids need to work closely with their parents. But parents are insanely busy, so the solution must be quick to set up and painless to maintain.

What’s the answer? FamZoo’s “virtual family credit union.”

How the FamZoo Virtual Family Credit Union WorksSlide 2 of 18: How does it work? Parents run their own private online “credit union” for their kids. The accounts in this credit union aren’t real financial instruments — they’re “virtual accounts.” A virtual account balance simply represents how much the parent “owes” the child at any given time. From the child’s perspective, a virtual account is still very real.

The parents are the virtual credit union managers. They credit accounts for deposits, chores, odd jobs, allowance, gifts, interest, etc. Most of these credits are automated after a one-time setup. Parents hold on to the real money for safekeeping while kids make goals and save. Parents debit accounts after purchases, donations, or withdrawals.

The kids are the virtual credit union members. They learn to spend, save, and give wisely through regular hands-on practice. Kids collaborate with their parents in a private, friendly, educational environment and learn from their mistakes without doing any serious real-world financial damage.

Parents and Kids Enjoy Online Access Through a Friendly InterfaceSlide 3 of 18: Friendly Online Access. Parents and kids can sign into their private virtual family credit union through a friendly online web interface. As the managers, parents see and control all of the accounts in their family. Kids only see their own accounts with access permissions that are determined by the parents.

Parents Can Match Policies With Their ValuesSlide 4 of 18: Match Policies With Values. As the managers, parents are in charge. It’s their credit union; they make the rules in a way that matches their unique family philosophy. For example, when it comes to a child’s income, parents can decide whether it’s based on odd jobs, paid chores, regular allowance, birthday gifts, or whatever — perhaps even some combination.

Create Incentives That Kids Can AppreciateSlide 5 of 18: Incentives That Kids Can Appreciate. Do you really think the annual interest rate on a real savings account is going to motivate a kid to save? Nope, that’s not gonna cut it. With a virtual family credit union, parents can offer incentives with arbitrarily aggressive rates and time-frames. Let parents decide what it takes to communicate the magic of compound interest and jump-start good saving habits with their own kids.

Kids Monitor Their Own MoneySlide 6 of 18: Kids Monitor Their Own Money. Kids can monitor their own accounts and transactions using a web browser, a mobile interface (iPhone app or Android), or text messages (any mobile phone). With FamZoo, kids learn to live within their own means, not their parent’s.

Set Goals, Make Plans, Monitor ProgressSlide 7 of 18: Set Goals, Make Plans, Monitor Progress. Kids can make saving and giving goals, plan what-if scenarios for achieving them, and track their progress over time. With their parent’s guidance, kids will learn to save patiently and give thoughtfully.

Start Simple. Add Sophistication As Kids Mature.Slide 8 of 18: Start Simple. Add Sophistication As Kids Mature. FamZoo’s broad spectrum of personal finance tools allows parents to start very simple with their youngest kids. As children mature from youngsters to tweens to teens, parents can add sophistication incrementally. Older kids can learn to manage budgets, loans, expense accounts, and more as they gradually transition to your credit union’s real world financial products.

Parents Are Insanely Busy! Quick Setup. Auto-pilot.Slide 9 of 18: Quick Setup. Auto-Pilot. Parents are insanely busy! They need a simple, visual setup that gets the family up and running in minutes. They need automation to keep things like allowances, chores, interest payments, recurring expenses, and reminders running smoothly in the background. That’s exactly what they’ll get with FamZoo.

Deliver Great Education. Grow Membership.Slide 10 of 18: Deliver Great Education. Grow Membership. Using FamZoo Partner Edition, our award winning co-branded platform with its built-in targeted advertising engine, credit unions can deliver effective youth financial education while capturing new members as they naturally transition to real world financial products.

Super Simple ImplementationSlide 11 of 18: Super Simple Implementation. You can integrate FamZoo on your credit union’s site with just two links and some copy on your youth financial education landing page — no software installation or fancy back-end integration required. Your IT department won’t be freaking out. FamZoo doesn’t move any real money around or hold any real account info either. Your security officer can rest easy. Get your FamZoo Partner Edition up and running in minutes.

Custom Registration FormSlide 12 of 18: Custom Registration Form. Parents registering from your landing page will see your registration form. You can optionally customize it with your own top banner, introduction section, verification field, and any click-through legal terms or privacy policy provisions you’d like to include in addition to the standard FamZoo ones.

Custom Look. Custom Content.Slide 13 of 18: Custom Look. Custom Content. Parents and kids from your registered families will see your custom co-branded styling as well as your targeted content. Your custom content can appear in the upper banner area and in the right-hand sidebar. The content and the targeted audience segments are entirely up to you. You might include age and situation appropriate offers for your relevant financial products, educational content, links to your social media sites, favorite charitable organizations, or anything else your member families might find useful.

Your co-branded styling is controlled through your own custom CSS rules (nerd alert!). If you aren’t familiar or comfortable with CSS, don’t worry! We can help you implement the styling changes you need to achieve your desired co-branded look.

The Administration ConsoleSlide 14 of 18: The Administration Console. Your FamZoo Partner Edition comes with access to your own self-service administration console. Use the admin console to set up your co-branded look, manage your custom content, and see usage stats for your registered families.

Create and Schedule Custom ContentSlide 15 of 18: Create and Schedule Custom Content. Use the admin console to create, preview, schedule, and manage your custom targeted content. Your content can appear in banners across the top of FamZoo web pages, in sections within the right-hand sidebar, and within emails sent out by FamZoo to your registered family members.

Target Your ContentSlide 16 of 18: Target Your Content. Use the content targeting options to get the right message to the right audience at the right time within the right part of the FamZoo application. For example, you might choose to schedule a special prepaid card offer to appear in the second position on the sidebar of the Overview page during the month of January to all parents with a “tween” or a teen.

Manage Your Account and SettingsSlide 17 of 18: Manage Your Account and Settings. The Account tab in the admin console is where you can find your special registration/sign-in URLs, manage your custom registration page settings, and keep an eye on your family subscriptions/renewals relative to what you’ve ordered so far.

Questions? Contact Us.Slide 18 of 18: Questions? Contact Us. Do you have any questions about FamZoo Partner Edition? Would you like to schedule a detailed demo and discussion session over the Web using GotoMeeting? We’d be delighted to talk to you about bringing FamZoo to your credit union — just contact us here.

Credit unions, ready to get started?

To schedule a live demo for your credit union, CLICK HERE.

Reinforce Your Child's Giving Habit with Holiday Charitable Traditions

Operation Holiday CardFamily traditions are a wonderful way to turn positive behaviors — like charitable giving — into regular habits, and year-end holidays provide the perfect anchor point for establishing annual charitable traditions with your kids.

This year, we continued our simple but powerful Thanksgiving tradition of making hand-made holiday cards for the troops as originally described in this quick charitable family project post two years ago.

If you’d like to participate in Operation Holiday Card this year too, you’ll have to hurry! Your cards need to arrive to the team in Shreveport by Wednesday, November 30th.

Looking for examples or perhaps a little creative inspiration? Here are our cards from this year. The heartfelt messages give me goosebumps every time I read them.

Can’t see the embedded slideshow? Try viewing on Flickr here.

Looking for more kid-friendly charitable giving ideas? See these related posts:

Happy holidays!


New Feature: 1 Step Transfer Between Virtual Accounts

How to Transfer Between AccountsJust recently, we added a nice little convenience feature to FamZoo that has been in high demand for a while: the ability to transfer money between virtual accounts in a single step (as opposed to the tedious Texas two-step of debiting one account and then crediting the other).

(Not familiar with FamZoo’s online Virtual Family Bank? Find out more here.)

Here’s how it works.

Click on the transfer link. It appears in the footer of the Account Balances and the Account Activity summaries on your Overview tab. You can also find it on the Accounts page or the Transactions page under the Bank tab. Look in the the left hand sidebar under the Actions section. Note that the transfer links will only appear if you’re signed in as a parent and have more than one account in your family, or if you’re signed in as a child and have been granted credit/debit permissions on more than one account.

Find the Transfer Link

Fill in the transfer form. Clicking on the transfer link brings up the form named Transfer Between Accounts. Pick the source and destination accounts, fill in the date and the amount of the transfer, and add a description and memo if desired. Click the transfer button at the bottom of the form to make it happen.

Fill in the Details

Check out the two matching transactions. After the transfer, you’ll notice two special matching transactions — one in the source account and one in the destination account. Look on your Transactions page under the Bank tab and you’ll see that transfer transactions are easily spotted by the little colorful arrow icon in the description field. You can jump to the matching transaction in the other account by clicking on the account name link in the description. After jumping, the matching transaction briefly highlights in orange to make it stand out.

Jump Between Matching Transfer Transactions

Got questions? Feedback? Other requests? Just leave a comment below, or contact us privately if you prefer, and we’ll get back to you. We love hearing from you.


The Allowance Song

Sophie LondonEvery day at FamZoo, we search the web for anything related to teaching kids good money habits using keywords like “chores” and “allowance” — among others. Over the summer, our search turned up a very cool story about a wonderfully talented 18 year old singer-songwriter named Sophie London who had just released her self-titled debut album.

Wow, what a voice. What musical ability. I’m always amazed at the talent these teens can possess — maybe because when I was an aspiring teen musician, my guitar instructor told me after just two weeks of agonizing lessons: “Bill, I think you should find another hobby.” Ouch.

But, how’d Sophie end up in our teaching-kids-about-money search results? Here’s the quote that did it:

I wrote my first song — it was called “The Allowance Song,” because I wanted my allowance and my parents would never give it to me.

OK, now that’s a song I just had to hear!

So, I contacted Sophie to see if she had a copy of the original song lying around. No such luck. Undaunted, I commissioned Sophie to revive the song from her early childhood — and toss in a few new twists. See what you think. Here’s The Allowance Song (Revisited). Listen with the player below (or you can download the mp3 here).

Naturally, I think it’s quite epic. So, I’ve christened it as the official FamZoo theme song.

Here are the lyrics:

Yesterday when we were going shopping

I saw something that I wanted to buy

I reached into my bag for money

And all I found was dust bunnies

All because you forgot to pay me

Allowance is something we have agreed on

Every week I am rewarded for my hard work

The lawn is mowed and my bed is made

And I help out in other ways

But I hate when you forget about pay day

I'm not asking for a lot

Just a buck or two

It comes down to this

Here's a suggestion for you

If I pull my weight

Will you pull yours too?

But we can make this easier

And start using FamZoo, FamZoo

I am growing up and I am learning

How to work with money and be responsible

When to spend and when to save

We're dealing with it every day

So don't forget or it's the price your gonna have to pay

I'm not asking for a lot

Just a buck or two

It comes down to this

Here's a suggestion for you

If I pull my weight

Will you pull yours too?

But we can make this easier

And start using FamZoo, FamZoo

I'm not asking for a lot

Just a buck or two

It comes down to this

Here's a suggestion for you

If I pull my weight

Will you pull yours too?

But we can make this easier

And start using FamZoo.


It's Here: FamZoo Partner Edition for Banks, Credit Unions, and Advisors

FamZoo Partner Edition: Best of Show at FinovateFall 2011FamZoo Partner Edition, our new co-branded version of FamZoo, is now available for financial institutions and advisors looking for an innovative new way to deliver effective youth financial education. Using Partner Edition, a financial organization can deliver FamZoo’s Virtual Family Bank directly to its client families. Partner Edition includes an administrative console wrapped around a built-in targeted advertising platform. Using Partner Edition’s self-service console, an institution can customize FamZoo’s appearance, schedule targeted offers, and monitor activity. The platform allows organizations to deliver the right offers at the right time to the right segment of their audience as kids gradually transition to real world financial products. For example, a financial institution might choose to highlight its teen-oriented debit card offering to all parents who have children between the ages of 13 and 17 or its starter savings account to parents of kids 12 and younger.

Please note: families who register and subscribe directly with us via FamZoo.com remain free from all advertising — just as before. Only families registering via a partner using FamZoo Partner Edition are subject to advertising and offers from that sponsoring partner.

The “formal unveiling” (OK, aside from my jeans, Bank of Mom & Dad T-Shirt, and orange shoes) of FamZoo Partner Edition took place last week in New York City at FinovateFall 2011, the premiere conference for showcasing new innovations in banking technology. The format consists of 63 companies delivering back-to-back, pressure-packed 7 minute demos over two days in front of roughly 1000 financial industry executives, analysts, press, and venture capitalists. To top it off, if you don’t heed the big red count-down clock and exceed your time limit, the Finovate staff rings a loud buzzer and unceremoniously cuts your microphone — whether mid-sentence or not. Pretty brutal, but we all know the deal going in, so fair enough.

I was super relieved just to make it through without getting “gonged” and without suffering any unnerving technical glitches. Several hapless presenters were not so lucky — ouch. Kudos to Chris for all the behind-the-scenes prep work and technical contingency planning, like our backup server that fortunately never got called into duty. (But, if it hadn't been there, you just know we would have needed it.) Oh yeah, and my apologies to the poor NYC subway passengers who became an unwitting audience for repeated ad-hoc mumbled rehearsals of my 7 minute schpeel in the days leading up to my time slot.

The videos of the actual demos are not up on the Finovate site just yet, but in the meantime, here’s a goofy little trailer we produced to generate a little pre-show interest:

We were absolutely thrilled (and, frankly, a little bit surprised) by the incredible interest and response we received. The audience voted FamZoo Best of Show and we received tons of genuine interest at our booth - and not just for our cool stickers! Really. Although, I must say my favorite moment was when the big, burly, tough, tattooed union guys who broke down the show booths came over to me to politely request extra stickers for their kids. How could I refuse? It’s the only time I saw those guys smile. Everybody loves cartoon stickers. They were a universal hit.

Jay Sanders at the FamZoo FinovateFall 2011 BoothLast, but by no means least, I want to give a special shout-out to our two launch partners for FamZoo Partner Edition: Paul Comstock Partners and Jay Sanders (President of Maturity Planners and youth financial literacy educator in New York City — see Jay’s great blog). Your help and support was instrumental in ironing out those inevitable initial kinks when you deploy the real deal. Your passion for our product is insanely motivating. Jay, you were an absolute gem at our Finovate booth — I couldn’t have handled the crush without you!

To wrap up my thoughts on the show: I’m truly delighted to see an increasingly serious industry commitment to honestly teaching kids sound personal finance skills — not just check-the-box style efforts. It’s been a long road from day one in 2006, but we’re seeing lots of new activity in the youth financial literacy segment and a variety of creative approaches. That bodes well for kids and familes everywhere, and we’re proud to be a part of it.

P.S. If you find yourself in New York City and you like to walk, here’s a cool tip (thanks to my bro): check out the High Line Park — really, really cool.

For articles covering FamZoo’s appearance at FinovateFall 2011, see here.


How to Keep Your Kids on Task Without Hovering

It’s almost the end of summer.

You’ve got lots to do. Your kids have nothing to do.

Camps and summer leagues have stopped. Schools haven’t started.

Your kids are in limbo. Arrghh!

The thought of them sitting around watching TV or fooling around on the computer all day is driving you a bit nuts, even if school is right around the corner. You can think of a list of productive things they could be doing, but you’re too busy with your own work, errands, or chores to be constantly prodding them along.

So, how are you getting something done without letting your kids turn into complete couch potatoes behind your back?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Make a checklist together each morning. I’m sitting down with my 9 year old son each morning and making a checklist of meaningful things to accomplish during the day. It includes:

  • a little math (30 minutes in a workbook and 15 minutes of math flashcards on FactMonster.com),
  • some music (30 minutes of piano practice),
  • some physical activity (lacrosse in the backyard with the big bro),
  • occasionally a paid job, like washing the car.

Here’s our list from today (of course, we keep it in FamZoo, but paper works too!):

Checklist with Summer Day ToDos

We both like this because the rules and expectations are very explicit and clear from the beginning. It really cuts down on the whining and the nagging.

Check off and notify on completion of each task. My 9 year old son gets to set his own schedule (for the most part), but he is responsible for checking off the tasks and notifying me via text whenever he completes a task. I only go into the dreaded nag mode if I haven’t seen a text in a while. He seems to appreciate the autonomy. I’m able to stay more focused.

As for notifications, my 9 year old can’t text directly (no cell phone yet), but since we’re using online checklists in FamZoo, I can just set up an automatic alert to text me whenever he checks an item off his list. Here’s the Alert setting for his Checklist (my wife gets a notification as well, so she can feel connected while away at work during the day):

Checklist Alert Setup

And, here’s what my text notifications looked like yesterday:

Automatic Text Notification On Check-off

Yes, he’s still playing computer games, watching a little SpongeBob, and assembling Legos throughout the day, but at least I know he’s getting a nice balance of other activities in as well. I’m getting more done too. Win-win.

Do you have any tips for keeping kids on task during the end-of-summer doldrums? Share your techniques in the comments.


Teach Your Child Money and Business Skills with Roller Coaster Tycoon

Are you looking for an engaging, violence-free computer game for your youngster? As an added bonus, would you like your child to learn the basics of money and business along the way? Check out Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Here’s a quick review from my 9 year old who started playing the game when he was 6:

Roller Coaster Tycoon is a fun game and also explains the meanings of profit and money managment. For example, if you start off by taking a lot of loans, you will have negative money later on, unless the rollercoaster/ride has a VERY good profit. If you start off simple, it’s better. One of my tips is that I don’t put in food/drink stalls until I get a message saying the guests are hungry or thirsty. If you put food/drink stalls in too early, their profit will be negative and take away some of your money. That’s why I like Roller Coaster Tycoon

Here’s a screenshot of the Financial Summary from one of his parks:

Teach Your Child Money and Business Skills with Roller Coaster Tycoon

I think he needs to renegotiate the interest rate on his loan!

As a parent, I highly recommend Roller Coaster Tycoon. It’s fun. It’s educational. Win-win.


Teen Freelancing, Allowance Experiment, Money Anxiety: Family Finance Picks (#52)

Here are my top three kids & finance picks from around the web last month:

Son’s Free-Lance Car Wash Idea a Throwback to a Different Era

Summer Job at Rickshaw BagworksI’m a huge proponent of teens getting summer jobs. A summer job is a critical skill and character building experience. It’s also a terrific excuse for parents to collaborate with their teens on one of my favorite family finance tips: the “Family 401(k).” That’s why I’m so dismayed by the increasingly dismal work prospects for teens these days. As John points out in his column, teenagers with enough “hormonal energy to power a small aircraft carrier” are a “bad bunch to have sitting around doing nothing.”

Yes, sadly, teen jobs are scarce, but maybe our teens just have to get a bit more aggressive about creating their own opportunities. John’s son did. Read about his free-lance car wash experience here.

July carnival of Natural Parenting: Making an Allowance

by Crackerdog Sam on Hobo Mama

Sam shares the early results from his allowance experiment with his 4 year old son Mikko. The post includes wonderfully concrete examples of how an allowance, when used properly, can help teach good money habits. The pictures are cute too. My favorite quote comes at the end:

We learn by doing. We teach, best, by coming alongside during the process.

I love it — well said and perfectly aligned with the FamZoo philosophy.

Read about Mikko’s early allowance adventures here.

My Kids Are Freaked Out About Money

Kathryn shares the anxieties her children feel about money and how the downturn in the American economy has fueled their fears. While there is unfortunate anxiety, I find most of her kid’s money perspectives extremely laudable. It’s a touching, thought-provoking piece. Read it here.

We’re constantly scouring the Internet looking for articles related to family finances and teaching kids good personal finance habits. You can visit our ever growing list of family finance bookmarks here. We’re up to 1,756 now!


Teach Kids Money Management Skills Early: Bill on ABC15 Smart Family

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Daphne Munro along with Connie Colla, hosts of the Smart Family show on ABC15 in Phoenix. The topic of our live interview was teaching kids good money management habits which includes one of my favorite habits to jumpstart early: charitable giving.

Here’s the video segment followed by a transcript:

Bill Dwight featured on Smart Family Show with Daphne Munro and Connie Colla ABC 15, Phoenix

Daphne Munro: Well thanks for joining us live on Smart Family I’m Daphne Munro.

Connie Colla: And I am Connie Colla and our goal is always to keep it smart and simple. And you are going to learn something new every day.

Daphne Munro: That’s right, like our first smart topic. Does it seem that young people today feel that they are entitled to everything without actually doing anything.

Connie Colla: According to the 2007 Gallup Poll, when it comes to inheritance, 44% of young adults 18 to 34 expect their relatives will be giving them money or valuables.

Daphne Munro: Yes, and that’s compared to 33% of those a little older at 35 to 54 years old and 10% for those 55 and older. Well, if you want to change your kid’s attitude to a more giving attitude, then you definitely want to listen up. Well joining us now is Bill Dwight who is the creator of FamZoo.com, which is a website that teaches your kids how to manage their money, and he happens to be the father of five kids, so I’m sure he has a lot to say about this topic. So thanks for joining us Bill.

Bill Dwight: Thank you for having me.

Daphne Munro: So first of all, let’s talk about teaching your kids the idea of giving away their money. Tell me about this.

Bill Dwight: Well, typically, they’re focused on spending, but we have a site that encourages kids to both spend and give away their money — and save also. So, that’s a little balance.

Daphne Munro: Tell me about your philosophy because you told me your kids, all five of your kids, you encourage them when it comes to — we’ll talk about savings in just a second — but you encourage them to give some of their money that they save.

Bill Dwight: Yeah, absolutely. The first thing is for them to have some of their own income so that it’s meaningful when they give it away. It’s easy to give away mom’s money, for example.

Daphne Munro: That’s right, of course.

Bill Dwight: So once they have some of their own, we sit down and have a conversation and talk about: “what portion would you like to spend, save, and give?”

Daphne Munro: Okay, so, which leads me to my next question:, how do these kids get money?

Bill Dwight: Well that’s a very personal choice because I know for example you are not a big fan of allowance.

Daphne Munro: Well actually, I am. My daughter earns her money she gets chores every day.

Bill Dwight: In other words some people think allowance is just a tool for teaching finance and that you shouldn’t have to work for it.

Daphne Munro: No, no, no.

Bill Dwight: Others feel that you should work for chores.

Daphne Munro: Okay.

Bill Dwight: And so everyone has a different philosophy, and the beauty of FamZoo is we cater to any of those philosophies. But the important thing is that the child views it as their money.

Daphne Munro: Okay, so once they are earning their money, and they have their money — now you are saying that you come up with a three-part when it comes to kids managing their money.

Bill Dwight: Right, for example my youngest son, Quintin, he does 60% spending, 20% savings, and 20% giving.

Daphne Munro: Okay.

Bill Dwight: And, over time, when he works up to, say, $50 in his giving account, then we sit down together and say, “well, how would you like to figure out how to donate this money?” And there are lots of wonderful sights online to do that, or you can go into your community.

Daphne Munro: Well, let me ask you a question. Okay, so if I was — I’m going to try to take my brain back like 20, 30 years. I’m thinking, okay, if my dad came home and said, “okay, we want you to learn how to manage your money, so we are going to teach you how to spend it wisely, how to save it wisely — but we also want you to give some of your money,” I would have been like, “uh-uh.”

Bill Dwight: Well that’s what my son said at first, “what do you mean give away my money?”

Daphne Munro: Yeah, so how do you get your kids to change their attitude?

Bill Dwight: So that’s a teachable moment. That’s an important conversation to have: “why is that good for you, Quintin?” What they find is, when they do it, they feel good. It’s like exercise, you know, it’s a little tough to get started but once you get in the habit, you feel good, it’s good for you, and no one else can exercise for you. That’s why I think it’s important for the kids to have their own money to give away.

Daphne Munro: Well, I love how you said earlier when we talked when you said, “you know you really want to encourage your kids to learn how to give and not always receive because it feels good and it makes the world a better place.”

Bill Dwight: Not only that, if you are taking care of that balance then you are going to have good personal finance skills because you are not spending all of your money. You have some left over for these beneficial things.

Daphne Munro: Other things, right.

Bill Dwight: To take care of, not only yourself down the road, but also other people and your environment.

Daphne Munro: Who could have ever thought that giving of your money would actually teach you how to manage your money well, right? I love that.

Bill Dwight: Well, it feels good.

Daphne Munro: It does, it does. Okay, now tell me about when it comes to kids and taking them shopping, like it’s a birthday. You’re saying don’t go out and just by other kids a gift.

Bill Dwight: Yeah, don’t buy it for them. I think it’s important for the kids to get into the act of giving. So one thing that you can do is you can set up, for example, a gift allowance where you create a budget for gift giving.

Daphne Munro: Okay.

Bill Dwight: Maybe, you know, how many buddies a year, and a modest gift, and then have your child manage that budget. So, be involved in the purchase of the goods. It makes them feel better to be involved, and it makes them feel a sense of ownership.

Daphne Munro: Okay, what about like matching? Like one of the things that I’ll do with my child is, you know, for example she wanted an iPod. It costs $200. So, I said, “okay, if you can save up $100, I’ll match you.”

Bill Dwight: Yeah, that’s the neat thing about the bank of FamZoo, or the bank of Munro in your case, is that you can decide all of these policies because you are the bank manager.

Daphne Munro: Okay.

Bill Dwight: You might put in matching; you might give her a very aggressive interest rate that you couldn’t get at a real bank.

Daphne Munro: I love that. Now, that leads me to the web site that you created. It’s called FamZoo.com. Now what exactly does this web site do from other money management sites?

Bill Dwight: Well, what’s neat is that you run your own bank. So you can make it match your values and, to the kid, it looks just like an online bank. So they get practice with online banking and personal finance, budgeting, all that stuff. But you’re in charge, you’re in control. You make the rules.

Daphne Munro: I love it. Well, you know what, thanks for joining us Bill — some really good advice there on money management skills, and I hope all of your five children turn out to excel when it comes to managing their money.

Bill Dwight: Well, thank you, I hope so too.

Daphne Munro: And if you would like to check out FamZoo.com, it does cost $30 per year, but you can try it out for two months for free. I have to say it’s rather an interesting site. I hear that Connie is over in our social media station, Connie.

Connie Colla: I am, and I bet if Bill plays his cards right, his kids will all be giving him an allowance when he gets older.

Daphne Munro: That’s true. I love it.

Connie Colla: All right, well, a lot of you are sounding off on our Smart Family 15 Facebook page about entitlement. Does it seem that kids are more entitled these days, or at least feeling it? And what’s the best way to approach that attitude?

Well, Chris Hawkins says, I see it all the time teaching high school, it’s showing in the workplace to with young people thinking that they can go straight to the top without having to put in time and effort required for promotion. Parents do have to set limits.

And Shanna Peppiatt said, I tell my children they are entitled to these things: a roof over your head, warm meals to fill your tummy so you aren’t hungry, clothes to cover your naked body, and that’s it. Everything else — and I mean everything else — is earned.

And Ashley Oakes says, make them earn any spending money that they receive and teach the value of saving up for something rather than just handing it over to them.

Well those are great comments and we thank you for them. We always love it when you join the conversation at Facebook.com/smartfamily15. Log in, and join the conversation now.


Teaching Teens Good Money Habits: 10 Tips

Teens and Phone InsuranceWant to hear some of my favorite tips for teaching teens good money habits?

Check out my recent guest post over at the Our Kids blog.


Teach Your Child Business Basics with a Lemonade Stand

Put that Lemonade on my Credit Card, Please!Who’s really running your child’s lemonade stand? You or your child? The lemonade stand is one of the classic rituals of summer, and it can be an excellent hands-on way for kids to learn some business basics — if you let them!

Unfortunately, many parents inadvertently rob their kids of a golden educational opportunity by handling or hiding some of the basic business mechanics along the way. Instead, take a step back. Let the kids plan and run the business themselves. Let them know you’re available for advice (and seed capital), but otherwise they are in charge.

Here are three simple steps to get rolling on a summer lemonade venture while letting your child experience and learn the business basics of planning, budgeting, and pricing along the way:

Get Organized

Have your child propose a checklist of all the things she’ll need to do to run her lemonade stand. Review the list together. Forget anything? What will you have to buy and what items do you already have around the house? See the sample checklist in this screenshot for some ideas.

Get Organized

Build a Budget

Have your child build a simple budget containing all of the ingredients that he’ll have to buy. How many cups does he think he can sell? How much will all the ingredients and supplies cost? See the sample budget in this screenshot.

Build a Budget

Pick a Price

Have your child propose a reasonable price for each cup of lemonade. Will her business turn a profit or suffer a loss? Tune the price and/or the budget until it matches her desired business outcome. Adjust her expectations if necessary. Update your budget to show the bottom line as in this screenshot.

Pick a Price

OK, your little entrepreneur should be ready to roll. Time to execute.

Good luck!

P.S. You and your child can use a spread sheet program or even just pencil and paper to do your lemonade stand planning, but if you’d like to try a fun, collaborative online approach, check out FamZoo here.


Can Your Bored 9 Year Old Help You Run Your Business?

Ahhh, summertime...

9 year old son: “Dad, I’m bored. Do you have any jobs for me?”
Dad: “Ummm, not unless you’ve got some Internet marketing skills I don’t know about.”
9 year old son: “What’s Internet marketing?”
Dad: “Nevermind...”

Hey, wait a minute. My son can read, he’s savvy on the computer, and he’s pretty darn smart (if I don’t say so myself). Maybe I actually can use him on some of my Internet marketing tasks if I factor the work properly.

For example, one of my more routine tasks is to scan a daily automated Google alert for decent articles related to teaching kids good money habits. I add the good hits to our library of bookmarks and leave comments if I think I have some value to add to the article. Finding the good ones means sifting through the alert and filtering out hits that aren’t truly relevant or ones that are just blatant instances of nonsensical keyword stuffing. My 9 year old is certainly capable of making those judgement calls.

All I have to do is devise a simple system for him to identify the good matches and relay them to me. So here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • I copy the contents of each Google alert I receive into a Google Docs document.
  • My son reads the title and summary for each hit and, if necessary, drills down to the full article to determine whether it’s a good hit.
  • If it’s a good hit, he highlights it in yellow for me.
  • He let’s me know when he’s done, and then I just concentrate on the handful of highlighted entries for further curation.

Here's what it looks like when he’s done:
How I Put My Nine Year Old To Work

It’s been a win-win-win-win-win:

  • He isn’t bugging because he’s bored
  • He’s saving me time
  • He’s exercising his mind
  • He’s earning some dough (so he can blow it on Crowns for Wizard 101)
  • He does quality work for a very low wage

Maybe summer isn’t so bad for FamZoo after all.

How about you? Can you find a clever way to put your kid to work on something you’re trying to accomplish this summer?

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How to Create an Online Chore Chart in FamZoo

Do you pay your kids to do chores? That's what personal finance experts Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman recommend.

Or, maybe you expect chores to be completed without pay. After all, nobody pays you to make your bed, right? That’s how parenting experts Michele Borba and Dr. Joanne Stern feel.

Or, maybe you like the hybrid approach: basic chores are expected, but extra chores pay a commission, like Frugal Dad recommends.

Regardless of which model best fits your family, it makes sense to use a chore chart to set clear, explicit expectations about what should be done when and by whom.

These days, it makes a lot of sense to spell out those expectations online. Why? Here are a few of my favorite reasons:

  • Your kids are online. They’re comfortable with technology — maybe more so than you.
  • Everyone knows what’s due and when. Anyone in the family can get at their responsibilities from anywhere — even on the go via mobile phone. Still hearing excuses? Set up some automatic reminders. Kids don’t have to come to the chore chart anymore — the chore chart comes to them. Can’t you just see your tweens or teens rolling their eyes already?
  • It’s easier than using paper. It’s easy to set up recurring chores once and have them appear automatically thereafter. It’s easy to automatically tally up commissions for completed chores and credit the proper accounts in the Bank of Mom/Dad. It’s easy to change things as your kids mature.
  • No more re-writing history. There’s an automatic historical record which comes in handy during subsequent “negotiating” with the kids. I’ll confess that I do enjoy showing them how much money they could have made if they had followed through a bit more consistently.

Ready to get started? Here’s how you do it step-by-step:

Step 1: Sign into your FamZoo account and click on the Checklist tab.

Getting to the Checklist Tab to Create a Chore Chart

Step 2: Click on a Create link to start creating your chore chart.

Creating a New Chore Chart

Step 3: Give your chore chart a name and fill in some other general settings.

Setting the Chore Chart Name, etc

Step 4: If you want to pay your kids for chores (or ding them for neglecting them), check the Rewards & Penalties box.

Enabling Chore Credits or Debits

Step 5: Click an Add Item link to start adding tasks to your chore chart.

A New Empty Chore Chart

Step 6: Fill in the fields for your each new task.

Adding a New Chore

Step 7: If it’s a recurring chore, pick a start day (the Due field) and select options for how often it repeats.

Selecting the Chore Start Date

Step 8: Set an “expiration date” on your chore so unfinished chores don’t clutter up your list.

Setting a Chore Expiration Date

Step 9: If you’d really like to annoy your kid, set up a text message reminder for the chore.

Setting a Chore Reminder

Step 10: If you’re going the pay-for-chores or the hybrid route, indicate how much should be paid to which account when this chore is completed. You can add multiple entries here if you’d like to split between multiple accounts — like spending, saving, and giving.

Note: if you want multiple kids to compete for a first come, first serve chore payment, see this post on setting up First Dibs Chore Charts.

Setting the Chore Amount

Step 11: See what your new chore looks like on the chore chart.

A New Item on a Chore Chart

Step 12: Play around with different views of your chore chart by clicking on the viewing links.

Changing the Chore Chart View

Step 13: Try checking off a chore by clicking on the check box.

Checking Off a Chore

Step 14: See what a chore looks like when it’s completed. (You can un-check chores too and any related commissions will be “un-paid.”)

A Checked Off Chore

Step 15: Hop over to the transactions page for an account in your virtual family bank to confirm that the commission has been paid.

A Chore Transaction

Got questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. We’re always delighted to help.