The Secret Behind Your Teen’s Stash of Cash

Parents, picture this:

You’re cleaning house. You know you’ve told your teenager a thousand times to clean his room. At the very least, you hope he has put the painstakingly folded laundry away in the dresser. But, as you look into his room, you see clothes everywhere. Instead of fighting this battle for the 50th time, you give in. You pull out the top dresser drawer, a handful of socks poised and ready to finally be back where they belong, but you stop short. There is cash everywhere. Ones, fives, tens, and twenties fill the spaces in between your teenager’s mismatched socks. What’s your first thought?


Of course, your mind goes directly to the worst case scenario, speeding straight past rationality. Where did all this money come from? Is my child involved with drugs? Is he stealing? Is he part of a band of teenage bank robbers who have somehow evaded the attention of both police officers and parents?

What if the answer isn’t as sinister as you think? What if, instead, a drawer full of cash is cause for concern of a different kind? In this moment of surprise and panic, you don’t remember that your teenager has a job, gets an allowance, and often receives birthday cash from distant relatives. So, what if a drawer full of cash is actually a small, yet significant sign that your child needs help managing his money?

My Story

When I was in high school, I did not have a drawer full of loose cash. Instead, I had a manila envelope stuffed between some books on the nightstand by my bed, full of money. No, I was not involved in selling drugs. I’ve never stolen money from anyone, and I was not busy robbing banks with my friends after school let out. I was, in fact, quite the opposite. Smart in nearly every facet of my life, I seemed to be one of the good kids who had it all figured out, and I loved that people thought of me that way. So I worked hard to maintain my status as a good, responsible teenager. I made great grades, had a steady, part-time job, excelled as a student athlete, and maintained a solid relationship with my family. But I was an absolute idiot when it came to managing my money. When I started working at my first part-time job, my mom would help me cash my checks, and then she trusted me to handle the cash responsibly. But I didn’t have the slightest idea what that meant, and I was too ashamed to ask her for guidance. I didn’t want to tarnish anyone’s opinion of me, least of all my mother’s. If she trusted me enough to manage my money, then shouldn’t I be able to manage it?

Enter, manila envelope. I knew I needed somewhere to physically keep all my money, and since I did not yet have a bank account, I figured I should keep it somewhere relatively safe. Thankfully, our house was never broken into during this time, or else I’m pretty sure a bulky manila envelope, awkwardly shoved by some books on a nightstand screams: I CONTAIN LOTS OF UNGUARDED CASH!


It seems rather obvious how this story should end, right? Eventually, one way or another, I would figure out how to get a bank account, deposit all my money there, and be well on my way to living a financially healthy life. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it also sounds idealistic and untrue. Yes, I did end up getting a bank account, and my money was tucked safely away in a vault. But I was still the same stubborn person, still too concerned about how others viewed me to risk asking questions about my money.

Unfortunately, my teenage ignorance lead to a young adulthood filled with multiple instances of blindly hoping that my debit card or credit card wouldn’t get declined because I was always too nervous to actually look at my bank account and try to balance my money. I have been guilty of simply deleting emails from my bank and throwing away correspondence, unless it looked too important to risk it, all because I was uninformed. I didn’t know what I would do if there was a problem with my account. I didn’t want to think about how to find more money to augment a low balance. I had no clue how to actually establish and grow a saving’s account. So I ignored everything and hoped for the best.


Parents and teenagers alike, I urge you, please do not let this happen to you! It took me entirely too long to understand my own finances, and my lack of knowledge was a true detriment to me because it has required me to spend the last few years playing catch up and educating myself, instead of saving and spending wisely.

The task at hand is quite simple: talk to each other. Parents, if you find a drawer of cash, or a manila envelope, don’t automatically assume that your child has gone rogue and gotten into a messy, illegal situation. Likewise, don’t assume that your teenager knows how to be financially responsible just because he’s a great kid in all other areas of life. Leaving something this important up to assumptions and chance could condemn your teen to a lifetime of money troubles.

And teens, please don’t be afraid to talk to your parents! Take it from someone who tried so hard to be good at everything, and in doing so, totally failed at being good with money. Knowing how to actually manage and use your money is going to make your life so much less stressful and so much more enjoyable. So just ask. I promise, it’ll only help.

(photo courtesy © Pictures of Money cc2.0)

Meet Brynn, a 12-year-old entrepreneur using Greenlight to help kids beat cancer

You’ve probably heard: If you have a talent, use it. But how about “Use it for good?” That’s exactly what 12-year-old Brynn G. is doing. Not only does she make and donate custom face masks to schools, she also sells them — and gives 20% of sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Yep, that’s a whole lot of good.

Meet Brynn

Like most 7th graders, Brynn has plenty of energy. (Remember those days?) She spends her time cheerleading competitively, skateboarding and hanging out with friends — socially-distanced, of course. Here’s what makes her different: She runs a business. You heard that right — Brynn sews and sells face masks for her own company, B Creates. And she’s not planning on stopping any time soon.

How Brynn got started

Brynn honed her stitching skills alongside her grandma, who handed down the sewing machine she uses today. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Brynn turned sewing into a business. One day at home, she used the extra material from cropping a shirt to make a face mask. Her mom posted it on Facebook and word got out: This girl’s got talent. So, she started making and selling custom masks. And just seven weeks later, she had already sold 569 masks!

Brynn gives 20% of her sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — to help save kids’ lives. Did we mention she chose that charity all on her own? Major kudos. Brynn has also donated 20 masks to her local elementary and middle school… because everyone deserves a cool, custom mask, right? Think: colorful leopard, purple cosmic swirls and our personal favorite, llamas.

While Brynn sews the masks herself, she passes over the iron to her mom, Janice, who’s been supportive since the start. At first, Brynn wasn’t so sure about her business idea. She thought she’d get 20 orders, if that. Talking it over with her parents gave Brynn the confidence to really go for it.

After seeing how much money Brynn was making from masks, Janice decided to open her a Greenlight account to track it all. Janice can transfer money from Facebook sales right to Brynn’s Spend or Save accounts — empowering her to take matters into her own hands. So while Brynn is in the business of creating, she’s also learning. And you can’t put a price on that.

What’s next?

Right now, Brynn is using her Greenlight account to save up for a new sewing machine, so she can make more masks and raise more money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The jury is still out on where she’ll buy the new machine, so Janice set her Greenlight account to Spend Anywhere, giving Brynn the “green light” to exercise responsible spending
If you’d like to support Brynn’s mask-making business, head to the B Creates Facebook Group. All of her masks are washable, reversible and only $5. And remember: 20% of sales go to help kids who are battling cancer.

6 signs your kids are ready for their first debit card

Letting your kids graduate from handling cash to carrying a debit card is a big milestone. And that leaves us with a big question: When’s the right time?

With the holidays around the corner and gifts to be bought, we’d venture to say right now is the perfect time. If you’re still on the fence, look out for these 6 signs that your kids are ready for their first debit card.

Sign #1: They’re always asking for cash (or worse, your debit card)

Hand them cash and they spend it. Lend your debit card and they lose it. Okay — we’ll give them more credit than that, but you can probably relate. While these options may get the job done, they don’t give you a long-term solution for sending money to your kids. 

With cash, kids won’t learn how to track their balances and set a budget. That’s where a debit card comes in handy — but instead of lending yours, you can get them a special one made just for them.

Sign #2: They’re starting to earn money

Vacuuming once a week or making the bed every day? We’ll leave that up to you. If your kids are starting to earn money — whether it’s an allowance or a part-time job —  they’re going to need a place to put it. And no, we’re not talking about piggy banks.

As soon as your kids start to earn, get them set up with the Greenlight card and app so they can complete chores and get paid an automated allowance. Ready for the best part? When they earn on their own, they’ll start to learn why it’s important to take good care of their money.

Sign #3: They’ve got spending down, but they could use help with saving 

Alright, so they’ve started spending money. That’s great! Spending wisely is a big life lesson on its own. But we have to ask… How are they doing with their savings?
The good news is you don’t have to have a long lecture about saving. They’ll learn all about it when they get a debit card and start handling money on their own. Plus, you can help them make saving a habit with automatic saving tricks, like Round Ups (so they send extra cents into savings) and Parent-Paid Interest (so you can set an interest rate on their savings).

Sign #4: They’re ready to buy things on their own

When your kids are starting to order pizza delivery or buy things online, they’ve already made the first step at managing their money. The next step is letting it happen — and putting guardrails in place to make sure they’re spending wisely and safely.
Every family is different, so you can use your Greenlight app to set spending limits that will work best for your kids. Let’s say one of your kids is already driving. You can set spending limits for gas only (no sneaky snacks from the gas station). Or maybe you have a child who loves spending at Target. You can set spending limits so those shopping trips don’t get too out of hand.

Sign #5: They’re thinking ahead

Ask your kids if they have anything big they’d like to save up for. Who knows? They may have big plans for their money. If they don’t, help them come up with savings goals. These savings goals can be short-term or long-term. 

Not sure where to start? Here are some of the most popular savings goals from our Greenlight families:

  • AirPods
  • Car 
  • Sneakers
  • College
  • Video games

Sign #6: They’re ready for the money talk

They’re asking you the difference between debit and credit. They’re wondering how much money you make. They’re buying you gifts for your birthday.

While these things may feel uncomfortable at first (talking about money is hard!), this is actually a sign that your kids are ready and willing to learn. Kids learn by doing, so there’s no need to sit down and have a napkin-math lesson on money management. That’s boring! Instead, get your kids their own debit card and let the learning happen naturally — with the help of Greenlight’s balance monitoring, real-time alerts and automated allowance to make your life easier at the same time.