Blog

Financial Fundamentals

5 Important Money Lessons for Kids of All Ages

The kids are back in classes, and the learning is off to a good start (right?). Between the math homework, pop quizzes and history lessons that just don’t stick, it’s easy to forget about some of the lifelong money lessons your kids have right in front of them at home. Not sure where to start? We’ll give you a headstart with five fun ones! 

Money lesson #1: You’ll have to make decisions with your money. 

This one’s easy for grownups because we make decisions all the time. But kids are still learning the ropes of decision-making. Start small. Explain why you choose to spend money on groceries instead of takeout. Or clue them in on why you chose to buy one car over another. Eventually, they’ll start making tradeoffs on their own. 

Show, don’t tell: Get your kids a Greenlight login and send them money for spending and saving. The next time they ask you to buy something at the store, tell them they have a choice to make in their Greenlight app! 

Money lesson #2: Money comes from hard work. 

The earlier kids can understand this, the better. Psst, we’ve got an idea. Set them up with chores and choose whether or not an allowance works for your family. Believe it or not, pulling out the vacuum or washing the car actually helps your kids become more responsible. Just ask Marty Rossman, who researched the impact of household chores at a young age. She found the “best predictor of young adults’ success” was their involvement in household chores at a young age. 

Make chores fun: Turn on some music and come up with a fun name for your kids’ chores in your Greenlight app.  

Money lesson #3: Compound growth helps you grow your money.

Ever heard of the marshmallow experiment? You know — one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later? Your kids can learn about compound growth in simple terms like this. If you save and invest at a young age (even if that means spending less in the short term), it’ll pay off in the long run. Big time.

Incentivize your kids: Pay your kids an interest rate on their savings. Setting Parent-Paid Interest lets you decide how much you want to give, from 0-100%. The average rate for Greenlight parents is 18%. Start here and raise it as they save more. Spoiler alert — they will. 

Money lesson #4: You are your own money managing boss. 

One day, your kids will be budgeting, saving for their dream car and making big decisions with their money… OR they can get started right now. To get them in the habit, encourage them to put money toward savings goals or try Greenlight’s Round Ups to send extra cents into savings. They’ll get the hang of it — and yes, they’ll get that dream car much sooner if they start young!

Let them take the reigns: When they’re managing their money, they might have a hiccup every now and then. That’s okay! They’re learning while they have you to coach them. Talk about those hiccups and learn from them together. 

Money lesson #5: Money doesn’t grow on trees (but really!)

Okay, let’s be real. How many times have you told your kids that money doesn’t grow on trees? It’s one thing to say it, but for them to learn it, they’ll need to see it in action. When they’re constantly borrowing money from you (especially cash), they don’t have a full grasp on spending and saving. To them, it’s just their parent’s bank account — which may seem endless. 

Get the ball rolling: Give them their own debit card (a la Greenlight) with money set aside for different expenses: restaurants, gas only, general spending, you name it! 

That’s a wrap! Now you know how to make chores fun, get a debit card for your kids and set an interest rate to incentivize saving habits. And hey, these aren’t just money lessons for kids —  you might even learn a thing or two about managing your money!

What your middle schooler should know about money

Going off to middle school is a big milestone — for your kids AND for you. No doubt, your kids will have more freedom. They may not need as much help with homework, and they may even ditch a few family movie nights to see their friends. 

But it’s a great time in their lives. They’re growing up, learning about themselves and starting to form their own opinions about the world. While they enjoy these new privileges, it’s still important to help them learn valuable life lessons — starting with money.

Opportunities to earn 

Middle school is a great age to start earning money [1]. How? Chores, babysitting, yard work, dog-walking, the list goes on. Get creative with it!

When your kids are earning money, they begin to understand what it means to spend it. They grasp the idea that money really doesn’t grow on trees — it comes from hard work. A great way to teach this is by giving them chores and allowance (you can find these in your Greenlight app!). 

Help them manage their spending

Middle schoolers are busier than ever before, and they’re enjoying their independence. When they head out to the movies or spend the night at a friend’s house, it’s important that you’re there with them… without physically being there. 

Greenlight lets you keep track of their spending habits directly from your phone. When they’re spending too much at a certain store, you can add spending controls. Or when they’re not saving enough, incentivize them with Parent-Paid Interest

Talk about saving vs. spending 

As your kids grow up, they may start to have more “wants.” Use this as a chance to talk about saving vs. spending. 

We recommend a “show, don’t tell” approach. Show them what happens when you save money over time. Nice car? Nest egg for college? Hoverboard? A healthy savings account will get them there! 

Understanding costs

When kids are young, they don’t always understand how much life costs. As you know, it can be… well, expensive. Not sure how to prepare them? Start here: 

  • The next time you’re grocery shopping, point out certain brands that are more expensive than others. See what they say! 
  • Tell them about variable expenses and fixed expenses [2]. For example, your car payment is a fixed expense — you know it’s the same every month, so you can budget around it. But a nice dinner out? That will vary depending on the restaurant, and we call that a variable expense. 
  • Show them the utility bill (fun, right?). Some people are shocked when they get their first utility bill. Do your kids a favor now and help them learn what drives the cost up or down — they’ll thank you later!

Keep the conversation going 

Your kids will still be under your roof for a while, so don’t let the conversation drop after middle school. Their understanding of money will evolve and so will your conversations. And when you hit a roadblock, you can always count on Greenlight to help you out!


[1] Money Talks News , [2] US News

What high school graduates should know about finances

You’ve made it to the finish line. After diplomas, passed tests and signed acceptance letters, it’s finally starting to feel real. 

If you’re scrambling at the last minute to send your kids off with all the knowledge and tips they need for the real world, take a breather. We have a step-by-step guide for raising financially-smart high school graduates.

The basics 

No matter what financial background they have or career path they choose, there are some basics that every high school senior should know before college. 

  • Credit vs. debit. Once they’re 18, they can get their own credit card. Here’s the thing: they have to be able to prove their independent income or have a co-signer (probably you!). Talk about credit vs. debit to decide if this is the right time for them. 
  • Everything costs money. Teach your kids how to budget and monitor their spending regularly so they don’t find themselves in a bad situation.
  • Wants vs. needs. For some kids, this is the first time they’ll be paying for gas on their own. For others, college loans are about to start piling up. Take this as a teaching moment to explain why needs should always come before wants.

Return on investment 

Whether they’re picking a major or starting their own business, an important lesson is return on investment. Start with something like, “What you do now affects what you do later. If you decide to push off your mandatory classes, you may wind up in college longer than you wanted to.” You can also use a calculator to figure out the ROI for a major or minor [1]. 

Keep communication open 

Just because they’re leaving home doesn’t mean they’re all alone — remind them of this. They have you and they have us. Setting the stage for strong communication is really important! 

Let Greenlight help 

Family finance, big decisions, money management… it’s kinda our thing. They may not be right down the hallway from you anymore, but you can use your app to stay connected and keep up the financial learnings. 

Or, send them a nice Greenlight Gift to let them know you’re thinking of them. With all of this help, they can handle anything that comes their way! 

[1] PayScale

How to keep your kids’ debit card information safe

Here’s a summer quarantine idea: Ask your kids if they know how to write a check (or maybe even see if they know what a check is). Most money managing tools are now digital, which is convenient — but it’s important to know how to keep it safe.

If your kids have their own debit cards and bank accounts, you’ll want to have a talk about online financial safety. Start with these five tips! 

Keep personal information…personal

Kids may talk to their friends about everything, but when they get their first debit card, they’ll have to keep some things private.

Explain to your kids that their debit card number, PIN number and login information should be kept a secret. And while you’re at it, help them come up with a trick to remember these numbers [1]. It’s a lot of information! 

Know when to spot a scam

With little exposure to the world of scamming, kids may not be able to spot something phishy. Have a talk about these possible scams: 

  • Scammers who act like your bank. Make sure your kids never give out personal information via phone, email, text or social media. Greenlight will never reach out directly to a child, so if they ever get a strange call from someone posing as Greenlight, they should politely decline and have a grownup reach out to our Customer Service team.
  • Shoulder surfing [3] is another thing to look out for. This is when a scammer peeks over someone’s shoulder to get their card information. Tell your kids that it’s easy to avoid — just keep your card to yourself and cover that PIN number! 
  • The too-good-to-be-true deals. When your kids start shopping online, have a safety session with them to point out offers that are trustworthy [4] and those that are not.

Practice safety at the ATM 

If your kids are making trips to the ATM, remind them to cover their PIN number. If the ATM has several failed attempts, tell them to head to another one. 

Or, skip the ATM trips altogether. Just turn off ATM spending access in your app. 

Have a safe place for your debit card

Like their candy stash or video game cabinet, kids need to have a safe spot for their debit card. Remind them that this card isn’t just a piece of plastic — it holds all of the money they’ve worked hard for. 

Lost card? It happens to the best of us. In the Greenlight app, you and your kids can turn off the card with the tap of a button. 

Learn about it together

Going through these tips gives you and your kids a chance to learn about financial safety together. Grownups make mistakes too, so it’s a learning moment for everyone. 

With Greenlight, your kids learn by doing. Lessons and conversations come naturally as you work together to keep track of their money, divvy up their earnings and map out their financial futures. Now that’s an offer that’s never too good to be true — sign up for Greenlight today!

 
[1] The balance [2] Nerd Wallet [3] LifeLock [4] WalletHub

April Financial Literacy Month: Start talking to your kids about money


There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding families across the globe as we navigate a new time full of many changes. As parents, we’re all spending a lot of extra time in our homes, with Netflix binges and family game nights to keep us entertained (read: sane). 

Times like these can present opportunities for very teachable moments with your kids. Whether you’ve become a teacher in a literal sense or you’re trying to set a good example during this unique time, we’re here to back you up and give you the tools to help your kids navigate the world of money…. starting with Financial Literacy Month. 

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we’re ready to jump into savings goals, helpful Greenlight features and mini-lessons for you and your kids to learn together. Now that you’re spending more time at home, let’s explore financial responsibility and all that it can unlock for your kids!

Cover the basics

Smart saving habits are the cornerstone of financial health and happiness. If you can get your kids thinking (and talking) about saving at a young age, they’ll have an easier time with it as adults.

We’re all about rewarding smart saving skills, so we’re giving Greenlight kids the chance to win $500 when they add to their savings goals this month. As long as they’re contributing to their goals throughout April, your family will be automatically entered for a chance to win. Make sure your kids download the app!

Talk it out

There’s no need to teach your kids about money all at once. Instead, start with simple conversations that get them in the money management mindset. 

For example, talk to them about wants vs. needs so they can start to understand why they need to allocate their money toward certain expenses. Or introduce them to credit and debit — two totally different concepts, but both very important for your kids to understand.

Join the community

Now we want to hear from YOU! Join our conversations on social media and stay up to date with our blog. We’ll keep you in the know on our Savings Goal Sweepstakes, share kid-friendly finance tips and give you all kinds of ways to get connected with other parents like you. Let’s let off some steam but keep it supportive — we’re all navigating this crazy world together! 

From our family at Greenlight to you and yours, Happy Financial Literacy Month.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year to Save and Budget

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! There’s no better time than now to take up the topic of budgeting and saving with the family. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday retail sales will be up 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $730.7 billion spent on gifts for family and friends! Before your kids make their holiday gift lists, start conversations on how to set budgets and save up.

Bring on the budget

Setting a clear budget for the holidays and sticking to it will show your kids they don’t have to go into debt to have a holly jolly holiday season. The average American took on more than $1,000 in debt during the holiday season in 2018, so showing kids the importance of setting a budget, planning for the budget (calculating how much everything will cost for the season and how much they will need to save) and how to stay within the budget will serve them in the future. 

Make a list (check it twice)

Lists aren’t just for Santa Claus to find out who’s naughty or nice during the holiday season — they’re the perfect tool to help stay on budget when it comes to spending.

Before heading out to a store or logging onto Amazon, ask your kids to make a list of who they want to buy presents for and if they know what they plan to get each person (if so, have them add their gift idea to the list). To make sure your child doesn’t run through their holiday budget, ask them to look into the price of what they want to buy before they plan to shop for it.

Having a list to work through will keep shopping focused, both in-store or online, if you’re out shopping on Black Friday or going after deals on Cyber Monday, teach your kids focus is key.

Set a savings goal 

Within the Greenlight app, encourage your kids to set up Saving Goals, specifically for holiday. Perhaps they name it their Christmas Fund or their Gift Goals. Here’s how to set up a Saving Goal: 

  1.     Navigate to your “Save” tab.
  2.     Tap “Add a Savings Goal.”
  3.     Enter a title or description of what you will be saving for.
  4.     Enter a goal amount.
  5.     Tap “Add Savings Goal” to complete the set-up process.

Parents, remember that your kids need permission to spend their savings. As they move money out of their Saving Goals into a spending greenlight, they’ll send you a request. Be on the lookout for when it’s time for them to cross holiday shopping off their to-do list.

The season for deals and shopping steals 

After your kids have saved to meet their holiday Saving Goals, it’s important to talk them through smart spending. The holidays are a great time to teach bargain shopping (especially with a budget in mind). Here are the three shopping days you and your family should consider for deals and steals: 

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the busiest retail days of the year and it’s known for its big sales, discounted prices and often crazy in-store crowds. Black Friday is a good day to teach your kids how to navigate in-store experiences and what it’s like to shop with specific items in mind. It’s never too early to start shopping Black Friday deals, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
  • Small Business Saturday: The Saturday after Thanksgiving (also known as Shop Small Saturday) is an opportunity to teach your kids about supporting locally owned businesses and small, unique brick and mortars in your neighborhood.
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is the hottest day for online retailers to offer some of their best deals for the season. Can’t make it to the mall on Black Friday? Consider shopping Cyber Monday deals from the comfort of your own home. 

Talking to kids about sales, coupons, discounts and the benefits of when to shop in-person and online can help create savvy shoppers for life. 

A little thoughtfulness won’t break the bank 

Gift giving often becomes a major focus during the holiday season, but not all gifts have to come from a store. Some of the most thoughtful gifts come straight from the heart. When your kids are making their holiday gift giving lists, make sure to have the conversation that small, thoughtful gifts can go a long way. 

Cookies, DIY ornaments, arts and crafts projects, handwritten cards and random acts of kindness to those we know and love won’t break the bank. And the warm and fuzzy feeling they bring about is what the holiday season is all about after all.

Add Parent-Paid Interest 

Parents, to encourage saving, consider adding Parent-Paid Interest within the Greenlight app. 

Greenlight offers parents the opportunity to set and pay interest rates on savings to demonstrate the magic of compound interest. Here’s how to set up parent-paid interest!

Get ahead for the holidays with Greenlight

Join Greenlight today to encourage wise saving and smart spending ahead of the winter holidays. Set up a holiday specific savings goal today!

The Fundamentals of Wants and Needs

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were financially-smart kids. The secret to setting your kids up for a solid financial future is to start with the basics. Deeper than the value of a dollar, budgets and why it’s so important to save lies the very basic lesson of: wants and needs are not the same thing. 

While the difference between wants and needs may feel straight forward to grownups, the concept can be complex to kids. Breaking down needs, wants, the fine line between the two and how to make trade-off decisions is critical for instilling money management and financial planning skills. 

Know your needs

Needs are essentials. When teaching your kids how to determine what a need is, it’s important to highlight what is a true necessity and what is a needy request —it’s all about perspective. Here are the categories we consider bare necessities: 

  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Water

We find that getting as specific as possible when explaining necessities helps kids master the concept and begin to apply it in real-life trade-off decisions. 

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

If you’re a parent, you’re probably used to hearing the rally cry “I want _____” from your kids. Wants can be described as the things your kids may circle in a magazine or put on an Amazon wish list for the holiday season. Greenlight mom Bonnie Koon even shared that her son once requested $10,000 via his Greenlight app. 

Wants are often inspired by peers, pop culture and hobbies. Here are some hopeful requests made by Greenlight kids. We’ll wait while you have a giggle or two.

When raising financially-smart kids, it’s important for parents to let their kids know that wants are a part of life but making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. 

The gray area 

No lesson in needs and wants with a child is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, so it’s important to get specific for clarity’s sake when dealing with such an abstract conversation. 

Is ice cream a food? Yes, but ice cream is certainly not a necessity. Are Yeezy’s shoes? Yes, but $300 for a pair of shoes is not necessary or a requirement. 

It’s important for parents to let their kids know that it’s okay to want certain things. But making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. In general, having a discussion around “wanting” things in life can be a powerful and inspirational discussion. You can want to make the soccer team. Want to be president. Want to have a family when you grow up. It is wants and dreams that put humans on the moon and brought us Beyonce. But when it comes to finances – you can’t always get what you want.

Being able to tackle these types of questions head-first will help kids understand the true meaning of a necessity instead of something they very much want, crave or think they need to meet the status quo. 

One way to help kids fully understands wants and needs would be to have them write a list of what they think are needs and what they think are wants. From there, break down needs — if they are a true necessity or not — and tackle what goes into getting a want (such as saving for that pair of Yeezy’s or picking up extra babysitting opportunities to help pay for the spring break trip to New York City). To take it a step further, discuss a budget of $1,000 with your child and include a mix of needs (rent/groceries/phone or car payment) and wants (a new iPhone/concert tickets/new shoes) to showcase that all needs must be met before money goes to wants. 

Want it? Save for it 

Wants and needs make a perfect opportunity to teach the importance of saving money to reach a goal. Want a new pair of jeans? Save for it. Have $100 extra each month after covering necessities? Add extra money to your savings goal to buy a new MacBook. These wants can act as perfect motivators to increase saving.

Setting up clear savings goals with Greenlight will not only teach kids how to set a savings goal and budget to meet their desired goal, but it will motivate them to save more in the long run. We’ll be talking more about saving in November, so stay tuned for tips from Greenlight families on how to have the right money talks.

Save with Greenlight 

Set up a Greenlight savings goal today!