Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FamilyMint Money Management Review

I was recently invited to review the FamilyMint Money Management Certification Program.   I was so excited to be able to give this program a try.  For a bit of background, I've had a history of being horrible with money.  I've always worked, since I was 16, and even worked 2 jobs at times, while in college.  I lived at home with my parents until I was 22, while working and attending college, so not alot of living expense up to that point.   So I HAD money, but I also SPENT money.   Looking back at those years, I'm ashamed at how I spent my money, my lack of saving, and overall wastefulness of my funds.    Add to that, those irksome credit card offers that come bouncing at you as a college student.   Oh, yeah, I was rolling in credit!    It came to a point, around age 23, when I was unemployed, and drowning in debt.   How did that happen? Because I had no financial education.  I did not receive any sort of money management skills from my high school or college education, nor from my family.   If I had money today, I spent money today, and worried about tomorrow then.  Don't even get me started on credit cards!  Turns out, the man I married came from pretty much the same type of financial background, ie had no clue how to manage finances!  The two of us together were quite the financial mess for the first few years. 

Coming from that experience, we knew we wanted different for our children.   We strive to teach them the value of money, and the value of savings.  But it does get to be a complicated subject, and we haven't ever really sat down to put in on paper, to make a visual for them.  Here's where the FamilyMint Management Certification Program fit in perfectly!    FamilyMint website says:  "FamilyMint's Money Management Certification Program combines a 60-page step-by-step workbook with a fun online money management application for kids. Kids that complete the 2 month program develop key money habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives."    Sounded like just what we needed to help our children understand money management!  The program is designed for ages 10+, and I could even see it being used as a high school credit, if one added a few additional financial planning books, ie Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, or Dave Ramsey books. 

I received a workbook and an online account.   Though you can purchase each individually as stand alone products. 

The workbook includes: 
  • Engaging exercises
  • Fun money facts
  • Financial vocabulary
  • Certificate for child upon completion of program
  • Answer key in back of workbook
There are chapters on budgeting, savings, goal setting, interest, tracking the money.  The workbook also offers several worksheets, such as goal tracking (keeping running totals of what the goal is, the incoming funds/expenditures).  It even has deposit slips and checks to practice filling out.    I read through this with my son, and we worked on it as a team.   We worked on the workbook twice a week.

While the workbook was important to read through the details and get the meat, I thought the online portion really brought FamilyMint to life.  A parent creates a "bank" and the child gets an account, where funds are deposited.  Note that the funds do not have to be real money, just imaginary funds for the imaginary bank account.  Although if one wanted, real money could be used at home, kept in a "bank" at home that matched up to the funds in the online account.  We used imaginary money here.  Just like my bank offers me online access so I can view what is going on with my account, the FamilyMint account does the same for your child.   You can see transactions, such as deposits and withdrawals.  The child can set up goals and the account tracks the savings in that goal account.  Accruing interest is calculated and shows a clear visual on the benefit of savings.   My son loved this online account and liked to check it every single day.  I loved that habit! 

Overall, I think that the FamilyMint program accomplished the goal it was created for, and certainly helped us give our son a firm foothold in a financial education.  The cost of the program is very affordable for the benefit it offers families.    

One thing  that I was a bit disappointed in, was the lack of discussion on the "danger" areas.  For example, there was a chapter in interest, in terms of accruing interest on a savings account.  But there wasn't any mention on the danger side of interest, as in credit cards.  From my own personal experience, credit cards are a HUGE danger.  Credit card companies put millions into their marketing campaigns, and many  young people just do not get it, do not understand how a credit card is not a wise choice in most circumstances, when all they see is these commercials about how cool a credit card is, and the perks you get with them. 

The other ball that I think was dropped was debit cards.  There's alot of talk in the workbook about checks, learning to write out checks, but nothing on debit cards.   Honestly, debit cards are the way of the world now.  Many companies don't even accept checks as payment.  Personally I write maybe 1-2 checks a month, meanwhile use the debit card on a daily basis.   Debit cards can lead to lots of financial trouble and stress if one doesn't know to use it wisely and remember to balance the checking account with debit card purchases.

Without a discussion of these two financial dangers, I don't truly think that one could say a child was educated in terms of money management.  Perhaps the authors, who are fathers themselves and wrote this program for their own children originally, thought these two topics were better for a older age group.  I think a chapter on "Dangers" could have been added, or even a second workbook, for an older age group that covered these topics, as well as the original chapters.

Head over to FamilyMint Money Management website, and see samples, screenshots of online account, and take advantage of their great pricing!

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