AllowanceTree brings personal finance lessons to kids

Faith Merino · June 15, 2012 · Short URL:

The People's Choice Award winner aims to educate today's youth to avoid another economic meltdown

If you want to put a positive spin on the global economic crisis (because we Americans have a crushing, single-minded need to think positively about everything), you could look to all of the awesome new personal finance tools that have cropped up in recent years.  One new personal finance tool just for kids and parents——was created with a simple goal in mind: to help prevent another global economic crisis like this one from happening in the future.

CEO Arnie Benn originally started out as a teacher, so building a product to help kids learn money management was second nature for him.  The native of South Africa used to teach middle- and high school math, chemistry, music, and filmmaking before moving to LA to work in entrepreneurship and media. 

If you have kids who are old enough to start demanding money from you, is pretty awesome.  The winner of Vator Splash LA’s People’s Choice Award allows parents to automate allowance payments while monitoring their kids spending.  Kids, meanwhile, can choose to set aside a portion of their allowance for savings, donate to charity, or invest in their own grades.

The platform is wholly customizable to each family’s needs, so parents can automate the payments while also increasing the value for things like good grades or more effectively completed chores.  For example, a chore done well may come with a $1.50 bonus, while a chore done exceptionally well may come with a $3.00 bonus, and so on.

Kids can also request a loan from their parents and can negotiate an interest rate for repayment.  Founders Benn and Daniel Desatnik (CTO) say that if the child is showing a pattern of taking out loans and not repaying them according to the agreement, the platform will advise the parents not to give out anymore loans—just like what would happen in the real world.

And the best part—the kids’ borrowing and repayment habits get crunched into a credit score, and just like in real life, a better credit score means better interest rates on loans and savings.

Benn says that the site was built primarily for middle school students, but obviously it can flex widely to include kids as young as eight or as old as 17. Desatnik says that most kids are quick to put a large chunk of change in their savings, but they’ve also noticed that the kids using their site tend to give the equivalent of 10% of their “income” to charity.  The platform allows kids to donate to the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, Project Child Save, the Red Cross, the Make a Wish Foundation, and more.

The Irvine-based startup launched in private beta last month and has so far tested it out only on friends and family, but after pitching at last week’s Vator Splash LA, Benn and Desatnik say the site has drawn a lot of new users.  The founders say they’ve also already had two meetings regarding some business opportunities with interested parties.

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On AllowanceTree, kids and teenagers manage and grow their real money in a fun, interactive, and parent supervised platform that mirrors the real world. They learn financial literacy and healthy money habits by doing, with their own money. They can save, invest (in their grades), give charity, diversify, take out loans (from their parents) and learn to avoid debt. Ages 9-17.

This product is a much needed and timely solution to the prevailing problem of financial illiteracy. Everyone seems to agree that if children were taught finance in a stimulating, technologically exciting environment, where they could learn to succeed and fail under controlled circumstances, they would grow up far better equipped to deal with the financial stresses that life entails. Our hope is that this product will help spare the current generation of youth from the sometimes catastrophic consequences and burdens that financial illiteracy has placed on the lives, marriages and happiness of their parents' generation.


Arnie Benn

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Daniel Desatnik

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I have been developing websites for over 12 years. I am an expert in php, jquery, javascript, mysql, html, and css. I graduated from Emory University with a simultaneous BA and MA at the age of 21.