Steve Rosen

A fun financial education is just a click away

Updated: 2012-05-05T04:01:48Z

By STEVE ROSEN

The Kansas City Star

Your kids loved rolling the dice and snapping up real estate and railroads. They argued over who got to be the banker and hand out the money. Perhaps they even dreamed of living the life of a tycoon.

I’m talking, of course, about Monopoly. Along with Pay Day and The Game of Life, the board game classic helped millions of youngsters for decades get a taste for counting money, making change, negotiating business deals and managing a paycheck.

Now comes Pageonce, Fantasy Finance, Remember the Milk and something called Tykoon.

They’re among a string of interactive online games and smartphone applications — some with videos and lush graphics — that have been introduced recently by Yahoo Finance, TD Bank, Northwestern Mutual and other big-name companies. The products have a common goal: to help kids of all ages get a grip on money basics such as earning, spending and saving money and charitable giving.

It’s no secret that young people struggle to build up their financial IQ, which often leads to detrimental consequences once they become adults and start living a lifestyle they can’t afford.

Moreover, the tough times encountered by many parents during the recession has had a trickle down effect on their children, according to a recent survey of teenagers by Junior Achievement and Allstate.

For example, the survey found that teens are mirroring parents’ behavior by spending more, saving less and feeling less secure about their chances of being financially independent compared to a year ago.

Many companies and nonprofit organizations that focus on financial literacy are determined to correct this problem. They’ve created quick and easy games and modules that teach money skills to grade schoolers, teens and even college-age kids.

Many of these products were highlighted during National Financial Literacy Month in April. Here’s a sample:

• Looking for a way to keep track of your kids’ allowance and gift money along with whether they’ve made their bed or hauled the trash to the curb? Check out Tykoon, an interactive family finance tool unveiled by Tykoon.com in partnership with Amazon.com and charitable organizations.

You can assign your children various tasks, such as cleaning their room, and attach rewards such as cash or being able to stay up late on the weekend. Kids choose to donate money or spend through Amazon’s shopping environment.

• TheMint.org, an award-winning personal finance website created by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, has added games, activities and information for children, parents and even teachers. For example, kids can take the Be Your Own Boss Challenge to assess their entrepreneurial DNA.

• Young children can enter the Wow Zone game room created by TD Bank (www.tdbank.com) and play the Coin Game or a handful of other games that teach kids about money.

• Does your college-age student need a budgeting plan? What about the shopping list for the grocery? Check out two smartphone apps: “Remember the Milk” and “Pageonce.”

I particularly liked Pageonce, which allows you to track your bills, payment due dates and how your spending fluctuates month to month.

Perhaps they’re not as fun as buying Park Place on the Monopoly board, but anything that will help a 20-something avoid late fees and interest rate penalties is a good thing.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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