Twenty-one-year-old TikTok creator Faares Quadri (or faaresq) likes to offer financial advice in an accessible, funny way. In one video, he explains investing in the S&P 500 to his risk-averse “dad” (who’s really just Quadri on the other side of the table), addressing concerns about market volatility or earning potential if he starts early. The video has been viewed more than two million times, and Quadri has 1.8 million followers. He’s not alone in the financial-themed social feed space; the investing hashtag has more than 2.2 billion followers on TikTok.
In 2021—with COVID-19′s huge impact on family finances, and viral news about GameStop taking over the social sphere—it’s clear that conversations about money aren’t really happening at home or in school.
While kids continue to use platforms like TikTok and Reddit to connect with friends and share funny videos, a new trend is emerging as more social media users jump on the financial bandwagon. Kids are talking money online, and fintech companies are taking notice.
WALO, bankaroo and Learn & Earn are entering the market with new features to fill the gap for content that doesn’t just teach kids about money, but makes sometimes complicated topics (like investing and saving) fun to learn about, too.
Financial education in schools is rare, and as a result, children all around the world often struggle with the basics when it comes to money. According to 2018 data (the most recent available) from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which surveyed 20 countries globally, one in four kids was unable to make even simple decisions about everyday spending, such as understanding a bank statement or choosing a phone plan.
But three out of four 12- to 17-year-olds want to learn more about money so they don’t mismanage or waste it, according to a 2017 study from the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education. More than half of Canadian kids surveyed (63%) said they wanted to learn how to save money, and 55% were interested in learning how to invest.
Many kids don’t feel comfortable making transfers, paying bills or filling in forms at the bank, says Michael Massoud, a principal at the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, which teaches kids about financial literacy. But there’s an opportunity for kidcos looking to chime in. The kids fintech sector, in particular, is experiencing a growth spurt as families and schools seek educational resources, Massoud explains.
But even with the increase in interest in financial literacy, saving isn’t always top of mind for families, particularly with the rise in frictionless e-commerce, says Rim Charkani, CEO of WALO.
To change that, the Quebec-based startup, which has backing from Canadian bank Desjardins, wants to get families thinking about finance through fun and games.
Originally envisioned as a bank for kids that would also offer educational content, WALO pivoted to become an app for eight to 16s that links to existing accounts and includes an educational layer focused on teaching kids about saving and earning. It gamifies learning by rewarding kids when they complete quizzes, Charkani says. Parents can add money to their kids’ accounts, and also set options like transferring an allowance to children when they complete chores.
Following its launch in Canada on iOS and Android devices, WALO plans to expand internationally through the rest of the year. It will also launch pre-paid cards to help kids manage their own money.
The pandemic has opened up opportunities for the kids fintech sector because families are more conscious of how important it is that children understand saving and how money works, says Charkani.
“Financial literacy is something that people want to teach their kids, similar to telling them to eat their vegetables. But many just don’t or can’t do it,” she says. “If we can help teach kids today to start saving early, and not get into bad debt, it can have a huge impact.”
Giving families practical tools that make thinking about money easy is the key to getting kids, and their parents, interested in financial literacy, says bankaroo co-founder Etay Gafni.
The LA-based app-maker has been teaching kids ages five to 12 the basics of savings and finance for the past 10 years. Parents use virtual money to reward kids for tasks, and children can set their own goals to work toward. While it’s not real money flowing through the app, bankaroo acts as a tool to get kids thinking about saving, interest and setting financial milestones with their parents, says Gafni. Its goal is to help empower children to think about earning and being accountable for their financial decisions.
The app has reached around 250,000 global users since it launched, and in recent months there’s been an uptick in schools seeking online resources that offer practical ways to teach kids about money.
Teachers have been using bankaroo to reward their young students with virtual coins if they’re good, and take them away when kids don’t follow instructions. At the end of a week, children can trade in what they’ve earned for a longer recess or a toy, which gets them thinking about transacting with their saving, Gafni says.
bankaroo is also resonating with family members who want to be a part of kids’ financial decisions, but don’t know how to start the conversation. Getting parents—who might not know much more about finance than their kids—involved in money talk can be a hurdle for the fintech sector. But the app has seen success in notifying parents and kids when goals are met or when new ones are set, and then encouraging them to talk about it.
High schools are now reaching out because they want to teach kids about money, and Gafni sees an untapped opportunity to partner with banks and help kids start thinking about saving as soon as they open their first account.
“There are many companies that want to reach kids and make the payment process frictionless, but we need to teach kids and parents to communicate about making and saving money [first],” says Gafni.
Teaching kids the basics of saving is the starting point, but there are many unexplored topics when it comes to financial literacy. That’s where Learn & Earn sees a space for itself, says CEO Michael Gleason.
This app for 13- to 18-year-olds launched in November 2020 and is focused on tackling more complicated concepts like investing, the stock market, and even cryptocurrency. Its pilot phase is wrapping up at the end of the school year, and the next step is to launch internationally in the fall.
California-based gaming company Blast developed Learn & Earn with Junior Achievement USA, a non-profit org that is focused on prepping kids for financial success. Through the app, kids can complete short courses in literacy, career readiness and entrepreneurship—complete with quizzes and hints—to earn real dollars that are invested in stock market portfolios for them.
Learn & Earn’s goal is to provide kids with an average of US$500 in savings that they can put towards school or starting a business. It’s off to a strong start—some of the high school students in the pilot phase earned more than US$80 in their first week, says Gleason.
The money comes from parents who want to reward their kids’ learning, as well as content creators and companies that also build and sponsor courses. Learn & Earn has already partnered with coding organization Kode With Klossy and cryptocurrency exchange Gemini to teach kids about jobs in the tech sector and cryptocurrency, respectively. The app is creating its own content, and there are opportunities for kidcos to provide and sponsor lessons, says Gleason.
The kids fintech market is having a bit of a moment right now as more parents and schools seek resources that don’t treat education about money as an afterthought. “When we talk about financial literacy, what we’re really teaching is financial capability,” says Gleason. “The goal is to get kids investing and interested in saving and the stock market, but also to help make money part of the conversations kids are having with their friends and families.”