These days, it seems there’s an online app for just about everything. And some are truly useful. At the top of my list are two apps I think are great at teaching kids about money:Mint.com and Level Money. Since a lot of kids get cash for the holidays, we thought we’d share some thoughts on both these apps.
Taking It to the Mint
Accessed through the mint.com website and mobile phones, this is a free service owned by giant software maker Intuit. Kids provide info for their checking and savings accounts, as well as any investment accounts. They — and you, if they give you the log-in info — can then check in and download account transactions, balances, etc.
What about privacy and piracy? Frankly, name-brand apps such as Mint.com are probably more secure than kids carrying around a credit card. The apps don’t store personal financial data on their servers or the mobile device itself. So even if hacked, the device is not likely to yield personal financial info, according to software analyst and PCMag.com senior editor Jill Duffy. Also, these apps are “read-only” services. This means you can use them to keep tabs on your finances, but not to move money in or out of accounts.
(1) Detailed charts of spending trends. Kids can actually see where their money is going. Too much money going to eating out? Clothes shopping? This shows them when they’re out of their norm.
(2) “Ways to Save” alerts. If there’s money sitting idle in an account, an alert pops up that suggests savings options. This gets kids to think about saving or even investing.
(3) Deposit and withdrawal alerts. Be it a $200 gift deposit or a withdrawal to pay for a pizza party, this familiarizes kids with cash flow.
(1) The categorization of spending can be way off. That’s especially true when you’re starting out, since the system doesn’t “know” you. Over time, you can manually tag common spending items, and this will cut down on mistakes.
(2) Advice “alerts” pitching financial services. But some of these can be turned off.
On the Level
Level Money is a relatively new service offered by San Francisco-based Level Money, Inc. Currently, it’s available only on iPhones, for free, although android phones are likely to be added soon. Level doesn’t yet link to accounts at smaller banks and credit unions. It also doesn’t link to investment accounts.
So why is Level worth a look? It’s very quick and easy to use. Kids can see their money flows in a flash. Assuming your child has an iPhone and an account at a major bank, the pluses are:
(1) Extremely easy set-up and quick access.
(2) Accounts updated in real-time.
(3) In-your-face graphics, one of which instantly shows how much you can spend today, this week, and this month, based on how much is in your account.
Source: Level Money.
The bottom line: Since most schools don’t teach financial literacy, money apps can bridge the gap by instilling good habits – accountability, prioritized spending, and regular saving. This is something that can pay very high dividends over time. Plus the price is right, with most popular apps available for free. Ben Franklin, we’re pretty sure, would approve.