"Do as I say, not as I do," probably summarizes the financial advice of many parents. Intuit, by contrast, aims for its new, Web-based Quicken Kids & Money to teach young children fiscal discipline while demanding attention from parents in the process. This $99 yearly subscription includes browser-based interfaces for parents and their 5- to 8-year-olds. The time seems ripe for an interactive service like this, given advertisers' colossal efforts to capture the hearts and minds of children along with the wallets of their parents.
Designed for integration into household habits rather than as a babysitting tool, Quicken Kids & Money is supposed to require 20 minutes of weekly care after the initial setup. Intuit suggests that parents dole out $20 to $32 monthly to each child. Online calendars help regulate chores and payments, and a social networking area allows parents to get in touch with each other.
Accompanying the service are transparent envelopes to hold money for quick cash, sharing, long-term savings, and medium-term savings. The Quick Cash envelope is supposed to keep 10 percent of income, while each of the other three envelopes contain 30 percent.
Why no piggy bank? Like the infamous ATM for kids, it leaves money unseen and mysterious, said author Neale Godfrey, an expert in family finances who helped Intuit build Kids & Money. Plus, she said, smashing the piglet could be traumatic. (However, I remain attached to mine, which safely kept the pennies charged by Aunt Gertrude for sewing lessons.)
The engaging KidsZone portion of the Kids &l Money Web site features big, colorful buttons that match the cash envelopes and track what's earned, saved, or spent. It's cool that the division of savings discourages instant gratification, while My Sharing encourages charitable contributions. Built-in e-mail and My Wants wish lists are likely to please kids. There are games featuring Reggie the Register too, but younger children will need some guidance.
Quicken Kids & Money can't inoculate kids against TV commercials. Nor will it guarantee that its pricey $99 charge will wean junior Suze Ormans or Warren Buffetts over time. Yet this seems like a solid service for families willing to commit to it. Now what's needed are money-management tools for adolescents and college-age adults, who are prone to shopping sprees and credit card pitches. Intuit has no immediate plans to build similar services for older children and teens, although that could happen in coming years.