Fintech products offer a range of practical benefits to consumers by simplifying and improving basic financial services.
However, this isn’t the only way consumers benefit from using fintech apps. The technology can also help young people develop financial literacy skills and knowledge.
It’s easy to understand why this is valuable. Although financial literacy is vital, many schools don’t teach it as thoroughly as they should—many young people (and plenty of adults) don’t understand the basics of budgeting, investing, credit, loans, and savings. Fintech can fill in the gaps in these subjects and help youth develop a better foundation for their financial future.
Making Financial Literacy Easier
There are many reasons why some young people don’t take the steps necessary to improve their financial literacy when school curricula fall short. However, a common one is the simple fact that developing these skills isn’t necessarily “fun” for most people, regardless of age. For example, until recently, budgeting was not an easy task. It could be a tedious chore that might last hours depending on your expenses and income.
Fintech has changed that. Numerous fintech apps make creating and maintaining a budget far easier than it’s ever been—and though the technology does most of the hard work, users still learn about personal finance. Some apps also offer users access to classes or an expert who can answer specific questions. You Need a Budget, for example, offers more than 100 live, 20-minute workshops, which help users master concepts quickly and build their financial literacy over time. While not appropriate for younger kids, older teens and college-age young people can benefit from this.
Improving Parental Oversight
Although it’s important for young people to learn how to manage their finances on their own, children and young teens need their parents to monitor their financial habits. Fintech apps may help in this capacity. Many of them allow parents to set up alerts when their child makes purchases or spends certain amounts of money. That means parents can more closely monitor their child’s financial habits.
Examples of apps with these features include Greenlight and Current. Both allow parents to transfer money to their child’s bank account, receive notifications about their child’s spending and ATM withdrawals, and set limits on spending.
In this respect, fintech apps can serve as “training wheels” for teens and younger children: they can access their own money, but with parental supervision. For example, Greenlight, Current, Gohenry, and Step all offer debit cards (Mastercard or Visa) for kids with parental controls. With parents’ help, children can also make budgets, set savings goals, and track their spending.
Prepaid debit cards in general can be a good way to teach kids about personal finance and responsible spending, especially if you do not wish to open a bank account for your child yet. Parents can decide how much they want to give their child to spend, without any danger of the child overdrawing the account or racking up unforeseen fees.
Remember that these fintech products aren’t just for teens. Gohenry, for example, was designed for kids as young as six. If you think it sounds ridiculous to give your first-grader a debit card, consider how much time many children spend online, playing video games and browsing the internet—and how easy it is for them to make purchases with your credit card.
Highlighting Money’s Value
The foundation of strong financial literacy is a thorough understanding of money’s value. A person who appreciates that money is a reward for hard work will be more likely to save wisely than someone who thinks of money as something they merely receive through luck or as a matter of course.
This is yet another way in which fintech can improve financial literacy in young people. Many of the apps mentioned above let parents deposit funds tied to their kids’ chores—essentially allowing them to pay their kids wages. Parents can create lists of chores with a monetary value attached to each. When a child completes a given task, their parents can approve the payment. This helps children clearly see that earnings are the result of hard work. It also provides a nice digital replacement for the traditional paper chore chart with stickers. Besides the apps mentioned above, others that offer this chore payment functionality include Chore Check, FamZoo, and Homey.
Giving your child a head start when it comes to financial literacy is one of the most important ways you can support their education—precisely because so many schools fail to teach these practical concepts. Parents are a child’s first teachers, and this statement is particularly true when it comes to personal finance.
Besides the apps and products mentioned above, you can also increase your child’s financial literacy by modeling good financial behavior yourself and by explaining what you do—for example, why you put 10% of your paycheck into your 401(k) each month, or exactly how you are going to save for next year’s vacation. Let your kids see what it takes to be a financially responsible adult. They’ll grow up with a clearer understanding of personal finance.