Question: I saw you on ANC talk about teaching kids about money. I’m considering educational software or online games like My Budget Planner for Kids, KidsSave and Planet Orange. Are these good ways to teach my sons about money management since they’re exposed to computers anyway? Thanks and God bless you. – from Rose Pis-an via text message
Answer: Hello to my namesake! As I discussed during the show, it’s best to teach our children about money as early as possible. (Click link to view the show.) Of course, we give it to our kids according to what is appropriate for their current ages.
Since you said that your sons are already into computers, I assume that they already play computer games. I remember several years back when my sons were very young and the computer games available were mostly educational and in CD ROMs. They were quite pricey but the boys have fond memories playing those games. These days there are a myriad of free games to choose from so all the more parents have to be vigilant.
I checked out the ones you mentioned and here are my observations.
1. My Budget Planner for Kids was developed by a mom who had money problems. She had debts, always worried about money and didn’t know where their money was going. According to her, she tried products like MS Money, Quicken and Excel but they didn’t work for her. So she ended up making her own and now she’s selling it for US$19 (for download) and US$24 (CD). She has different discounted combinations for bundles as she has come out with versions for kids, teens and college students as well.
It looks pretty much like an excel file to me. So if you know how to use excel and want to save on the cost, it may be wise to have your own program. However, if you have the budget for this and you want something ready-made, wherein you can see the percentages, your performance vis-à-vis your budget, etc. then you may consider this purchase. It just looks to me like it’s more for adults than for kids. And note that it does not work on mac computers. I also saw some reviews that say it looks a little dated and I agree. No flashy images attractive to young kids.
2. KidsSave is a software by Kinexions. It has colorful screen and graphics but it also functions more as a software for a parent where he can manage the accounts of his children. You can show the tools and amounts to your kids to encourage them to save. It sells for US$19.95 and is downloadable in five devices. There is a free trial period for 35 days. You may want to try it out so you can see for yourself if this is something that will work for you and your sons.
3. Orange Planet is a website sponsored by ING Direct. It’s a game for first to sixth graders but I think even older kids will enjoy it, and it’s free! I tried it and I found myself enjoying the adventures with Cedric and Amy, listening to the money guru, answering the quizzes, doing some “work” to earn “Obux” (the unit of currency in Planet Orange. I also played some games and “bought” some stuff but it was controlled by the amount of my Obux left. Then when I tried to “work” again to earn more money, I was told that I already did enough work for the day and I should come back after 12 hours so there’s also a built in control somehow. There’s also a portion for parents and teachers in the site where you can download lesson plans and worksheets. I probably spent half an hour so I can say that I was entertained. One good thing about this is the money lessons are taught in a playful way. Your kids won’t realize that they’re learning valuable lessons about wages, saving and investing while they play in this colorful site. So go ahead, play with this game.
It’s good to use some of your sons’ computer time learning about money and coming up with a kid-friendly recording of their savings and investments.
Whatever software or game you decide to give to your kids, it’s best to join them first in their initial encounters with these programs to make sure that everything they learn about money agrees with your core values. Anyway, financial literacy is a family journey.
Wishing you financial happiness,