Virtual Piggy Banks
The number of financial products geared towards children continues to grow. Starting children’s introduction to money and finance as early as possible will help them to learn about a subject that generally isn’t covered in schools. Many new product offerings take time-honored traditions like chores, allowance, and the piggy bank and move them online.
One such site, MyRewardBoard.com, was recently discussed in this article. There are many similar offerings with various levels of services, fees, etc. The way these sites generally work is that parents can set up a list of chores, the required frequency, and a value associated with each. Children can then login to see what they have to do, update status when chores are complete, and view their virtual piggy bank balances.
Some sites actually handle real money so that allowances can be paid out in cash, gift cards, or online merchandise credit. Other sites, such as Smartpiggybank.com, allow you and your kids to track their money in a virtual piggy bank without having to handle physical money or calculate interest yourself.
All of these sites have positive attributes, most notably that they open the door to conversations about money with your children. For kids completely inexperienced with money, having real allowances and piggy banks is probably a better starting point. Money is abstract enough without having to add the abstraction of the virtual world.
You can easily create paper copies of the chore lists as well, and kids might get more satisfaction from seeing a star or a fun sticker placed on their lists versus clicking a check box online. I know that when I was younger, I would often take my money out of my piggy bank, count it, and imagine all of the possible ways I could use it. That’s something that will likely be lost as things move online.
Once kids have some real-world experience with money via allowances and piggy banks, I think going virtual is a helpful approach. When kids are a little older, using an online tracking method may provide excellent training for their future use of online banking. It opens up even more avenues of conversations between parents and children. Perhaps you’ll want to show them how you log in to your Lending Club account and manage your P2P loan portfolio.
Showing your children that you have an online account (just like they do) may give them more incentive to learn about personal finance. Whether or not they’ll be better about doing their chores remains to be seen, but if they learn a little extra about money by bringing the experience online, then it will certainly be worth it.