Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Budgeting, saving, spending, earning; all of these terms slip in and out of my daily conversations with my husband. I am a firm believer in making the most of teachable moments, but never thought our discussions of finances were the perfect "teachable moment" for eavesdropping children until I was asked to review FamilyMint.com. FamilyMint is a FREE website co-founded by IT experts, engineers and businessmen Jeff Eusebio, Bob Masterson and Brad Frederick. The trio, with the help of a group of financial experts, designed the site to teach children the art of money management.

Eusebio thought of the idea for FamilyMint after becoming frustrated with a lack of quality materials available to help parents teach their children about money management, allowances and interest. "We've heard over and over how young adults enter the world of fiscal responsibility without the skills to succeed. FamilyMint is a natural, easy way to get kids ready for this future", states Eusebio on the FamilyMint website.

My oldest daughters are 18 and 20 years old, work part-time and pay for their own college expenses. When they were young we made it a priority to teach them the importance of money management on a weekly basis with allowances, budgeting and saving. Back in the day of their youth we used old peanut butter jars to hold various "accounts", and although primitive in design they worked. FamilyMint takes the concept of the "peanutbutter jar" and revolutionizes it with technology. It is very, very cool!

Creating an account on FamilyMint is FREE and easy. Upon registration the banker/parent names their family bank and adds as many users as desired. Ideally each child in the family will be a separate user. Instructions for set-up are clear, easy to follow and take only minutes to implement.

FamilyMint's focus is to help children use their money to:
  • Plan
  • Organize
  • Motivate
  • Educate
Planning is accomplished by creating various accounts for each child to deposit money. Spending goals are set by either choosing a typical goal suggested at the site or creating a unique goal. Users choose an amount to contribute either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to the savings goal and the program displays an end date to anticipate when the goal is met. Each spending goal created becomes a separate labeled account.

An added "Savings Plan" feature enables users to pre-determine percentages of deposits for each savings goal. For example, my 15 year old son created a savings goal of paying for his plane ticket for a National Bible Bowl tournament this summer. Making use of the Savings Plan option allowed him to determine that 35% of all of his deposits would be allocated to his Bible Bowl account.

Organizing occurs as users make consistent deposits to the family bank. FamilyMint suggests literally having children hand over their piggy bank stashes to the banker/parent as one option, but the important thing is to make sure money is deposited and allocated as pre-determined. Our family chose to make virtual deposits leaving the physical money in the hands, or wallets of each child. Yet another suggestion of FamilyMint is to include gift cards in the mix and record them as money deposits. The principle concept is to track and manage all money through the magic of the FamilyMint site.

Motivation is easy when using FamilyMint. Parent/Bankers can reward interest payments at any rate they choose for deposited money. Interest rates can be adjusted as the need arises, but only by the Parent/Banker. FamilyMint encourages the use of allowances to help children "think about money as a limited resource that must be used wisely". A "matching deposit" option is provided for extra incentive too. As parent/banker I chose to offer a 50% matching deposit to each college savings account for our children to demonstrate my value of this goal.

Education is natural and frequent with the creation of a FamilyMint bank and accounts. Because the site offers a visual component to a sometimes abstract concept of money management even my 2nd grader is comfortable in discussing percentages, interest and budgeting. Discussing FamilyMint deposits, accounts and savings goals is fun, engaging and feels more like a game than a lesson on finances.

I love FamilyMint, but the true test of any educational product is met when the kids use it. I asked the users of the Spoerndle Family Bank to share their honest opinions for this review. This is what they said:

"I like how they organize the money. I like how it shows you if you don't have enough money when you will if there is something you want to buy. For example, I want to go to the American Girl store in Chicago. This costs a lot of money. Now, I know how long it will take me to save the money and I don't have to keep asking my Mom when we can go."~Sierra, age 8.

"I like how it's set up in a way that's easy for me to understand. I like how it explains to you how close you are to your goal. I think this makes it a lot more exciting to save money this way. It's a lot easier than trying to figure it out myself. I feel more professional when using FamilyMint. I feel like I know more about banks and how they operate". ~Micah, age 12

"I like how you can work with your own account and add in deposits on your own without your parents help. Parents can just approve the transactions later. The account records look very official which is helpful for tracking details regarding your money. I would definitely recommend FamilyMint"~Jonah, age 15.

FamilyMint is a hit with all ages of our household. I especially appreciate being able to personalize all aspects of our bank and accounts. Step by step instructions, a users forum for questions, answers and tips and a blog are all accessible on the website. With very little effort on my part, my children have developed a new understanding of financial responsibility and money management in a short time. FamilyMint.com is the perfect product for parents in search of making the most of financial teachable moments.

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