Chillin' With The 72 Coolest Startups In America

FamZoo: One of the "Coolest Startups in America"What does it take to be selected as one of the coolest startups in America?

According to Doreen Bloch, author of the new book The Coolest Startups in America, cool startups:

  1. Solve a real problem
  2. Do it in a unique way
  3. Have reach
  4. Are ambitious
  5. Execute
  6. Focus on the consumer
  7. Have cool brands

Those certainly sound like admirable qualities. So, naturally, we were thrilled and honored to find out that FamZoo is among the 72 coolest startups in America profiled in Doreen’s new book. Want to see all 72 featured startups? Just scroll down to the list below.

Doreen opens FamZoo’s “Smooth Sailing” section with:

FamZoo teaches kids about personal finance in a fun and interactive way. It’s an approachable brand with adorable cartoons.

She continues with kudos for our customize-ability to match the needs and values of any family, our smart distribution strategy, our Best in Show award from Finovate (good quote about our startup space, Jim), and our gift option for “forward-thinking grandparents”.

What does Doreen ding FamZoo for in the “Choppy Waters” section? Ha, not telling! To read our full profile and the profiles of the other 71 cool startups, grab Doreen’s book on Amazon. Want to read a quick interview with Doreen first? Check it out here on the New York Times Small Business blog.

Who else is chillin’ on the Coolest list? I’ve embedded the List.ly list below. The short descriptions and tag labels match Doreen’s from the book. Vote on your favorites by clicking on the thumbs up icon. Click here if you can’t see it, or if you’d like to filter it by the category tags, or if you’d like to sort it by options like “crowd rank”.


How to Split Chore Chart Payments Percentage-wise

Split Chore Payments Between AccountsYou probably already know that FamZoo can automatically split regularly scheduled allowance payments between your child’s virtual bank accounts.

But, what if you don’t do allowances in your family? What if your system involves paying for chores or odd jobs instead of — or in addition to — paying out allowances?

Well, you may also know that you can create online chore charts in FamZoo. You can even attach multiple reward and penalty amounts to each chore item and funnel those amounts into distinct accounts. Cool.

But, what if you’d like to split a single chore amount percentage-wise between multiple accounts — just like you can do for an allowance?

Well, now you can, and here’s how in three easy steps:

1. Define the split

First, you need to tell FamZoo how you’d like to split payments between accounts. Typically, parents split payments between spending, saving, and giving accounts, but you can set up any number of accounts for your child — maybe you’d like to add a “family tax account” so your kids can help save for that dream vacation to Disneyland.

(1) Define the Split

Are you already paying your child an allowance with FamZoo? Would you like to use those same split percentages for your chore payments? If so, you’ve already got what you need for step 1, and you can move on to step 2.

Otherwise, you need to define your desired split percentages by creating a new allowance. (If you don’t do allowances in your family, don’t freak out here! I’ll explain in the next paragraph.) Find a Create Allowance link. There’s one at the bottom of the Allowances section on the Overview tab, and there’s another one in the left hand sidebar of the Allowances page on the Bank tab. Click the link, and fill out the form.

For those of you who don’t do allowances: consider this a “fake allowance”, name it something like “Chore Payments”, and set the amount of the allowance to $0. That will prevent FamZoo from making any automatic payments, while letting you use the rest of the allowance definition to dictate how chore or odd-job payments should be split percentage-wise between accounts when checked off.

Note: this “zero allowance template” trick can be used for ad hoc split credits as well — like, say, when your child gets paid $10 for feeding the cat while the neighbors are away.

2. Use the split in chore reward definitions

When you’re setting up the reward portion of an item on your chore chart, just pick an allowance from the pull-down list instead of a specific account. This tells FamZoo to split the amount using the accounts and percentages defined in the selected allowance definition.

(2) Use Split in Chore Reward Definitions

3. Check off chores to make split payments

When you check a chore off the list, multiple payments are made as defined by the split. You can verify this by visiting the transactions page for each account. The memo field identifies the chore list and explains the simple math used to determine the split transaction amount for this account.

(3) Check Off Chores to Make Split Payments

Cool bonus tip: Did you know that if you un-check a chore, its associated payment transactions are automatically removed? So, if you make a mistake or you decide a checked-off chore was not quite up to snuff (despite your youngster’s objections to the contrary), no worries. You can easily undo everything with one click.

Got a question or a comment about how our online chore charts work? Don’t hesitate to contact us on our site or leave a comment below.


FamZoo Earns "A" on Credit Union Report Card

FamZoo Earns "A" on Credit Union Report CardThe dog ate my...err... report card!

In the better-late-than-never category, I just stumbled upon the fact that we earned an “A” grade on the FinovateFall 2011 Report Card posted by the Filene Research Institute. Woot!

The report card expresses the opinions of 23 credit union leaders who accompanied Filene to the financial technology innovation show last year in New York City where FamZoo picked up a Best in Show award. Since the report card doles out 3 A’s, 3 B’s, and 3 C’s to the nine Best in Show winners, the “A” grade represents a best-of-the-best nod from the credit union perspective. We’re very honored by the accolade.

This excerpt from the Filene post explains the evaluation criteria used on the report card:

Nine ideas that were ranked Best in Show by the FinovateFall 2011 audience...have been given a report card grade based on the rankings of Filene’s evaluators, which factored in the viability of the idea, relevance to credit unions, and connection to a consumer need.

The evaluator comment next to our A grade reads:

Cool product. May be a play for credit unions to engage the next generation of members.

Interested? For more information about our youth financial literacy and marketing solution for credit unions, see here.

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Young America Saves: Start the Habit Early with FamZoo

Encourage Your Kids to Save: America Saves Week starts Feb 19, 2012America Saves Week starts Sunday! Are you looking for a way to kickstart your youngster’s savings habit?

“Let’s open a savings account for the kiddo!” you say. Not so fast.

To quote David Owen, author of The First National Bank of Dad:

To a kid, a savings account is just a black hole that swallows birthday checks.

He explains further:

Most efforts by most parents to teach most kids about money are doomed from the start. Those efforts usually begin (and often end) with the opening of savings accounts. The parents suddenly decide that the time has come to impose order on their children’s chaotic financial affairs, so they march the kids down to the bank and sign them up for passbooks. The children are intrigued at first by the notion that a bank will pay them for doing nothing, but their enthusiasm fades when they realize that the interest rate is minuscule and, furthermore, that their parents don’t intend to give them access to their principal.

Fortunately, there’s a new alternative — one that holds your child’s enthusiasm, instills good savings habits, and involves no marching anywhere. It’s a virtual savings account at your very own online Bank of Mom/Dad. It’s a bank where you, the parent, are the bank manager. You make the rules. That means you can set the interest rate and the compounding frequency to something that is compelling to your kid — not minuscule and yawn-inducing.

It’s a bank where your kids have their own access. They can:

  • sign into their own accounts,
  • set their own savings goals,
  • make their own savings plans,
  • monitor their own progress.

No more black hole that swallows birthday checks!

Here’s how you can get going right now (click images to enlarge screen shots):

1. Register

1(b) Add your child1(a) Register your familyRegister your family. If you’re signing up on FamZoo.com, you can try it free for 2 months. We don’t require any payment info up front — just the email address of the registering parent.

2. Create an account

2 Create an accountFollow the guided instructions in our pop-up bubbles to create one or more virtual accounts. Decide what kinds of special incentives you’d like to give your little saver. Perhaps an aggressive interest rate or a matching contribution at certain intervals.

3. Create a savings goal

3 Create a savings goalYour child can sign into your new online Bank of Mom/Dad and create a savings goal.

4. Plan a savings strategy

4 Plan a savings strategyYour child can use the savings planner to work through different scenarios and predict when the goal will be achieved given different savings assumptions.

5. Monitor progress

5(b) Record the purchase5(a) monitor progressYour child can monitor progress toward her goal on her own account dashboard.

Once your child has saved enough to achieve the goal, you can either hand over the funds or make the purchase on her behalf. Then debit the appropriate account to record the purchase.

That’s all there is to it! Get started now!

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Welcome to the Bank of Mom and Dad: Vol 1, Issue 1

The Bank of Mom and Dad NewsletterSo you’ve decided to set up an online Bank of Mom/Dad to teach your kids good money habits from the get-go. Kudos! Now what? What’s the best way to get your kids on board? How do you tell them what it’s all about? How do you lay out the rules for your new bank?

We get those questions a lot from our new families, and frankly, we don’t always have the most brilliant response. But thanks to FamZoo dad Mike P., now we do.

Last week, Mike emailed us Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Bank of Mom & Dad Money Talks Newsletter. He wrote it for his daughters while commuting on the train. I love it. It’s the most clever intro to an online virtual family bank I’ve seen yet, and Mike was kind enough to let us share it with you. Maybe you’d like to put together something similar for your kids. Feel free to steal liberally from Mike’s terrific example. Customize it to match your bank’s rules.

You can download the Word file for Mike’s newsletter here, tour images of the pages in this flickr set, or read the following text version:

Money Talks Volume 1, Issue 1, February 2012

Inside This Issue:

Introducing The Bank of Mom and Dad

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Money Talks, the monthly publication of The Bank of Mom and Dad!

The Bank of Mom and Dad (“TBMD” for short) opened in January 2012 at ** ****** Avenue, *********, New York.

The purpose of TBMD is to help ***, **** and ***** **** manage their allowances, gift money, and any money they earn doing extra chores around the house.

As explained in greater detail elsewhere in this newsletter, TBMD uses a website, Famzoo.com, to keep track of each girl’s money.

Famzoo will help the girls understand the difference between “checking accounts” and “savings accounts”, and will also help them create and track their own individual savings goals.

By keeping your money at The Bank of Mom and Dad, you will learn how to balance spending with saving.

We at The Bank of Mom and Dad appreciate your business, and we are always available to answer questions or hear suggestions. We look forward to serving you!

**** *******,
The Bank of Mom and Dad

Key Things to Remember:

What is Famzoo.com?

  • You will get a weekly allowance.
  • You will manage your own pocket money.
  • You will make your own spending and saving decisions.
  • If you spend all of your money, you will go broke!

The Bank of Mom and Dad uses a website — www.famzoo.com — to help keep track of allowances and the amount of money each girl has saved.

Famzoo can be accessed using any internet browser on a computer or the family’s iPad. You can log on using the family name (“******”) (apologies to Mom!) and your first name and personal password.

When you log on, you will see all the bank accounts that have been created for you at TBMD. Just like a regular bank, you have a “checking account” and a “savings account”.

Later in 2012, after you understand a little more about saving and investing, TBMD will offer “certificates of deposit” for investment, that will let you earn even more money than your regular savings accounts!

So, log on to famzoo.com and look around! In future issues of this newsletter, we’ll explain how to set up savings goals and other useful things provided by Famzoo.


When Do I Get My Allowance?

“Your allowance will be credited each Friday to your checking account at The Bank of Mom and Dad.”

When Mom and Dad get paid for their jobs, their bosses don’t actually hand them money. Instead, their paychecks get deposited (or “credited”) directly into their checking accounts at Citibank and at Chase Manhattan Bank.

Then, Mom and Dad can access their money in a bunch of different ways:

  • they can write a check (like Mommy does for the babysitter and for piano lessons, and like Daddy does for church on Sunday);
  • they can withdraw cash from an ATM machine;
  • they can use the computer to tell the bank to use the money to pay the family’s bills.

So, just like your parents, your allowance will be “credited” each Friday to your checking account at The Bank of Mom and Dad. Then it is yours to use however you like.

The important thing to remember is that money isn’t just the dollars and coins you hold in your hand — it’s also the amount that gets credited to your bank account, represented by a number on the computer screen!


What is Pocket Money?


You may have heard Mom or Dad talk about “pocket money”? What is pocket money? Is it different than your allowance?

Pocket money simply means the actual cash (bills and coins) you have in your wallet, pocket or stashed somewhere in your room. It is the money you have on you that is available to spend right now, without having to go to the bank or an ATM machine. (People sometimes also call this kind of money “spending money” or “walking around money”.)

When you get your allowance, you have to figure out how much of your allowance you want to keep in the bank, and how much you want to be paid as pocket money.

Keeping too much pocket money can be risky! You might lose it, or it might get stolen, or you might be too tempted to spend it on things you don’t need!

If you are running low on pocket money, you can withdraw cash from your checking account (by submitting a request to a TBMD staff member). If you think you have too much pocket money, you can deposit it at TBMD.

Learning to manage your pocket money is very important!


Checking Accounts and Savings Accounts


On Famzoo.com, you will have two accounts: a “checking” account and a “basic savings” account. What’s the difference between the two?

A checking account means that the money is available right now — you can withdraw it for pocket money, or write a check to pay a bill using money in the checking account.

A basic savings account means that you can’t get the money right away — first you have to move it from your savings account to your checking account, and that can only be done once a month.

Another big difference is that you don’t “earn interest” on the money in your checking account. The money in your savings account, however, earns interest, which means the bank actually pays you every month!


Making Your Money Grow


There are two ways to get extra money: you can work for it, or you let your money grow.

When you work for extra money, you give up your time. Work for one hour, and get paid for one hour.

When you let your money grow, you don’t have to work. Instead, your money works for you! You can get paid to read a book, or play a game, or watch a movie! How does this happen? By saving some of your allowance each week, you can make your money grow.

The money you put in your savings account earns “interest”. This means that the bank is paying you for the privilege of holding on to your money. The money they pay you is called “interest”.

Your TBMD savings account at pays interest at the rate of 5% per month. In other words, if you have $100 in your savings account for the entire month, TBMD will pay you an extra $5. (5% of $100 equals $5.) Putting $500 in your savings account means an extra $25 a month.

An extra $25 in your bank account every month, for doing nothing? Sounds like a pretty good deal!!


Do I Need Permission To Spend My Money?

“If you spend all of your money, you will be broke, and will have to wait for your next allowance.”

You don’t need Mom or Dad’s permission to spend your money, except for a few items.

If you want, you can spend all the money you have on books, clothes, shoes, gifts, candy, Pokemon cards, comic books, movie tickets, and so on.

Spending all of your hard-earned money right away might not be the smartest thing to do. If you spend all of your money, you will be broke, and will have to wait for your next allowance to have more. And you won’t have any savings to use for something special or unexpected.

(When grown-ups spend all their money every week, it is called “living paycheck to paycheck” — it is a stressful and unhappy way to live.)

You can always talk to the staff at The Bank of Mom and Dad if you are not sure whether to spend money on something — we can go over the pros and cons of a prospective purchase.

There are certain things you can’t buy without prior permission: any computer, cell phone or similar electronic device. But, if there is something in this list you really want, we can talk about it and come up with a plan.


Deciding How Much To Save


When you first log on to your TBMD account at Famzoo.com, you will see that all of your money (i.e., everything you have gotten up until now in First Communion money and allowance) has been credited to your checking account.

You have to decide how much of that money you want to transfer to savings, and how much you want to keep available in your checking account (for extra pocket money).

Remember, money in your savings account has to stay in there the entire month in order to get the 5% interest payment!

One useful way to figure this out is to ask yourself, “How much do I think I am going to need to spend this month?”

Then transfer the rest to your savings account!


Why Are We Doing This?

** ****** Ave.
********** NY

We’re on the Web!
See us at:

Family name: ********

Learning how to manage your own money is one of the most important steps of growing up.

There were times when Mom and Dad didn’t do the best job managing their money. Sometimes they spent too much, sometimes they borrowed too much. And they never saved enough! (We’re doing just fine now, thanks to good luck and providence. And we’re a lot smarter about money than before!)

But good luck won’t always be there to help you deal with very bad money decisions. And if you lose your job, or get so sick that you can’t work, bad money decisions can make things 100 times worse.

So Mom and Dad want you to learn how money works now, before you’re all grown up. We want you to learn how to spend, save and manage your own money. That way, you can be the smartest kids in town when it comes to money!

About Our Organization...

The Bank of Mom and Dad was founded in January 2012, in **********, New York, by your Mom and Dad.

TBMD’s mission is to educate ***, **** and ***** in the ways of money, while providing the highest level of customer service and satisfaction.

TBMD offers checking, savings and money management services to all the children of Mom and Dad.

We are an equal-opportunity employer. All deposits are FDIC guaranteed.


Isn’t that awesome?

Do you have a clever way of introducing your kids to your Bank of Mom/Dad? Do you have interesting bank rules like Mike’s above? Radically different ones? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

P.S. Deposits in FamZoo aren’t really “FDIC guaranteed”, but I suspect they’re safer than leaving money lying around your kid’s room.

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Chores? What chores? No more excuses!

Are you using a FamZoo checklist as an online chore/job chart for your child? If so, you may have wondered: when do upcoming chores appear on the chart? The truth be known, the answer to that question wasn’t as obvious as it should’ve been. That is, until this week. We’ve just rolled out some checklist improvements to make the behavior of upcoming chores much more natural.

Upcoming Chores on a FamZoo Online Chore Chart

Here are the new rules that describe when upcoming chores will appear on your chore chart:

  1. Due Today ViewWhen you’re browsing your list in the DUE TODAY view, you’ll see all chores due on the current day — no changes there.
  2. Due This Week ViewWhen you’re in the DUE THIS WEEK view, you’ll see all chores — whether past-due, due today, or upcoming — with a due date that falls within the current week. (Note: surprisingly, this is actually new behavior. In the past, you wouldn’t necessarily see upcoming chores in the remainder of the week. That was understandably confusing. Doh! Sorry ’bout that!)
  3. All Open ViewWhen you’re in the ALL OPEN view, you’ll see upcoming chores that are within an “appropriate” time horizon. Here’s how we define “appropriate” for the different types of repeating chores and situations:
    • For chores that repeat daily, you’ll see a week’s worth of upcoming occurrences. So, you’ll see what’s due through the next 7 days.
    • Similarly, for chores that repeat weekly on certain days, you’ll see any upcoming occurrences that fall within the next 7 days. There’s one exception: if you use the “Every N Weeks” option to skip some number of weeks between occurrences, you’ll see the upcoming chores that fall within the next N weeks.
    • Chores that repeat monthly or yearly follow the same pattern as weekly ones, but the time horizon is a month (or N months when using the “Every N Months” option) or a year, respectively.
    • Whenever you add a new chore, you’ll always see its first occurrence — even when its start date is way off in the future. Otherwise, you might add a chore and not see anything appear on the list. That would be confusing.
    • And finally, whenever you check off or delete the last occurrence of a chore, you’ll see its next occurrence. That just feels right.

Got all that memorized? Of course not! The good news is you shouldn’t have to think about those rules at all. Assuming we’ve got them right, things should just feel natural as you’re adding, browsing, and checking off your chores.

If not, just give us a holler!


You’re Never Too Old To Learn Good Money Habits from an Allowance

At FamZoo, we believe a parent is a child’s most important role model. We also believe that allowance can be a very effective tool for teaching good money habits. But what if the behavior modeled by a parent is negative? And what if the allowance is treated like an entitlement that is squandered week after week? The repercussions can be tragic. But even in those situations, there’s a silver lining. There’s hope. Why? Mentors can come from many sources: an uncle, a sister, a grandparent, a religious leader — even a trusted friend. And, perhaps most surprisingly, you’re never too old to learn good money habits from a well-administered allowance — even as a full-grown adult.

You're Never Too Old For An Allowance

Skeptical? Read this fascinating story from guest blogger Katie Roberta Stevens.

Is there an age limit on eligibility for allowance? At thirty years old, I found myself in despair because I kept making the same financial mistakes over and over again. I was earning an adequate salary, as a high school English teacher, but had to charge gas and food on my high interest credit card just to survive until the next pay period. On a weekly basis, I sneaked into day care to retrieve my son hoping the director wouldn’t see me and ask for her money. Then, at home, I dodged phone calls from bill collectors all night. I was living in a constant sense of panic and felt overwhelmed by shame. Where could I turn? I had already refinanced my debt twice only to have it far exceed where it began.

Children Learn What They Live

How did this happen to me — a college graduate and Teacher of the Year? Regardless of how you struggle to escape, the old saying, “Children learn what they live” applied to my finances. My four siblings and I were raised on welfare by a schizophrenic mother and no father. We learned that money came each month — no matter what. When the Aid to Dependent Children check came, my mother rushed out to buy pizza, candy and snacks, leaving us with no money for the end of the month. In our teen years, my mother went in and out of mental hospitals, and we were left to steal food and toiletries to survive. There were countless nights when we went to bed hungry and promised ourselves that we would never again live under these circumstances. Yet, there I was, a thirty year old divorced Mom of a 5 year old son, failing to provide a sense of security for him.

My Best Friend Taught Me What I Never Learned from My Family

I finally had to admit something to myself: I needed help. I couldn’t know what I was never taught. Finally, I found a solution. For three years, I gave my entire paycheck to my best friend. She took all of my bills and paid them on time and gave me a small allowance. She made me sit next to her once a month while she wrote out every check and recorded each transaction. I begged her for extra money, but she was too disciplined and refused. Even when I raged at her, she didn’t give in and never grew angry with me. My best friend was patient and taught me what I never learned from my family. She modeled how to be responsible with money. She erased the shame I felt from living a lie. Paying bills on time became a habit for me, as did putting a little money aside each month into savings. Even if it was just a few dollars, my friend insisted that one should always, “Pay yourself first!”

Good Financial Habits Are the Foundation for a Stable Future

This three year period was extremely difficult to endure. I felt as if I were being treated as a child. But when it came to finances, I was a child who needed the guidance and tough love of someone willing to parent me. The allowance system worked for me. It will work in your home too. You can save your children years of struggle by enabling them to develop healthy financial habits while they’re young. There is no more important teacher than you, and good financial habits are the foundation for a stable future. As a lifetime educator, I can confirm that children do indeed learn what they live.

What financial lessons are you’re sharing with your kids?

About the Author

FamZoo Guest Blogger: Katie Roberta StevensKatie Roberta Stevens is the author of My Mother Killed Christ: But God Loves Me Anyway. She taught English for 14 years and now works as a grant writing consultant for school districts through her company Away With Words. She resides in Brevard County, Florida with her husband, but she will always consider herself a “Jersey Girl.”