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Teaching kids about money can set them up to have a solid financial future. But most of that teaching needs to start at home.
Experts have long encouraged parents to set positive examples of financial behaviors. But before showing kids how to open a bank account or how a credit card works, teaching them the how’s and why’s behind basic financial principles is a necessary foundation.
For some parents, this can be a challenge. It can be difficult to know the best way to discuss money topics, including how to tailor them to be age-appropriate. These apps and online resources can be an effective way to start.
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5 Resources to Help Teach Kids About Personal Finance
Suggested age range: 10-25 years old
Zogo is an app that partners with credit unions to bring a fun, easy approach to financial literacy to Gen Z users and was created in collaboration with behavioral science researchers. The app offers over 300 modules for users to take at their own pace that covers topics such as building wealth, investing, credit scores and mortgages. Each time a user completes a module, they earn virtual points that can later be redeemed for checking account bonuses or gift cards at places like Starbucks and Amazon.
Suggested age range: Middle and high schoolers
BizKid$ is an Emmy Award-winning PBS series created by the producers of Bill Nye the Science Guy and first aired in 2008. Today, the show has a supplementary online resource that combines videos about financial concepts with games to help teach kids about money.
Financial topics are broken down into separate videos that feature kids discussing real-life topics, like setting a financial goal to purchase a car by the time they turn 18. Videos are accompanied by curriculum sheets (also available in Spanish) that include family activities such as breaking down a specific savings goal and guiding the child through creating a savings plan.
Some curriculum sheets also include activities for parents, such as opening a custodial account for your child so they can save money at an actual institution.
3. Comic Books From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Suggested age range: Middle and high schoolers
Monetary policy affects our own finances, whether we realize it or not. When the Federal Reserve raises or lowers interest rates, we all feel it one way or another, whether through more expensive borrowing or better incentives to save. Explaining this to kids can be tough, but the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has a creative solution: Comic books.
These free comic books about various economic cornerstones can be either downloaded online or received via mail (also free, but can take up to four to six weeks for delivery). The comic books cover topics such as explaining what an economy is, the concepts of interest, savings and budgeting, as well as the role the Federal Reserve plays in keeping the financial system safe and sound.
Most of the available comic books are also available in Spanish and have options tailored toward middle school and high school students.
4. Money With Mak and G
Suggested age range: Pre-teens and teens
If your child likes to listen to audio books, consider listening to Money with Mak and G together. This podcast features two 13-year-old twins, Mak and G, and their father, Ben Jones, who is a certified public accountant and certified financial planner. They discuss easy and complex financial topics, ranging from sanctions on Russia to starting a budget. Some advanced financial terminology is used during episodes, so this podcast is best suited for middle and high school students.
Mak & G episodes range from four to 14 minutes, making them a great option to listen to while eating breakfast or in the car on the way to school.
Suggested age range: all ages
Cost: Greenlight ($4.99 per month), Greenlight + Invest ($7.98 per month) and Greenlight Max ($9.98 per month).
After kids get familiar with basic financial principles, it’s best to let them try them in real-life scenarios. Opening an account with Greenlight can be a great way to start.
Greenlight is a Mastercard debit card and app designed for both kids, teens and their parents. The card functions as a regular checking account (FDIC-insured up to $250,000) and is tied to a parent’s account, so a parent can instantly transfer money to their kid’s account. The account offers up to 2% interest on savings, and parents can add additional interest payments via direct transfer. Parents can set category and store spending limits, and kids can even buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs (with parent approval) with no trade fees.
Aside from just being a debit card, the Greenlight app includes educational content to teach kids about concepts while they’re doing them, including investing and saving.
Greenlight comes with various perks, but is only free for the first month. After, users can pick from three tiers of plans: Greenlight ($4.99 per month), Greenlight + Invest ($7.98 per month) and Greenlight Max ($9.98 per month). The highest tier offers 1% cash back on purchases.
What Are the Best Ways to Teach Kids About Money?
There are endless apps and online resources available to teach children about money. But figuring out which ones are worth your time (and in some cases, your money) can be difficult.
Bethany Rittle-Johnson, professor and chair of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, says apps or games that only explore topics won’t do much in teaching kids money principles in the long term.
“Some exploration is useful, but we need it to be guided and structured with goals in mind and feedback happening,” Rittle-Johnson says. “These tools should be designed carefully, so the kids aren’t getting lost and not learning from them.”
TV shows can also be effective teaching tools, says Rittle-Johnson. But parents should keep in mind that there should be some type of application of the methods explained in these resources, such as kids having to create their own savings plan at home after watching.
Games are effective, too, but the most effective ones are created with researchers and designers collaborating to ensure they’re not only fun, but are designed to help kids fully grasp the concepts, Rittle-Johnson adds.
And if you’re still on the fence about the best resources to use? There’s evidence that the financial decisions of parents play a large role in their children’s financial behaviors.
If you’re not comfortable using external resources to engage in money discussions with your children, setting a positive example of money interactions, such as using credit responsibly or creating savings goals, you can set them up for success throughout their lives.