As a small child, Jason Young was given a rare opportunity: his mother opened a bank account in his name and gave him a $5 weekly allowance. One dollar was for savings, one dollar was for church and the other three were his to spend. At an early age, Young learned a key concept: budgeting. At the age of 13, Young had started his first business, J.W. Young and Associates Travel. Hence began his entrepreneurial career.
But not everyone is as lucky as Young. According to JumpStart, 95% of high school seniors are financially illiterate. To rectify that, Young is now building Zindagi, an online tool with mobile interactivity that combines social gaming with the use of real money to teach kids financial literacy, thereby empowering Americans to achieve their life goals.
“We’re trying to influence behavior over the long term,” Young told me, “We’re not just trying to build another application.”
Three core aspects of Zindagi’s design are the use of real money, incorporation of social gaming elements like points and incentives for meeting goals, and leveraging real life exercises. The game, which is still in development, will be comprised of several difficulty levels.
For example, one level of the game will center on learning budgeting with lunch money. Children are given a set amount for the week’s lunch. At first, children can choose to bring lunch or buy lunch. Down the road, the child will get to use the lunch budget at the grocery store, buying enough food for the week, and keeping the rest. Another level involves kids finding ways for the family to save on utility bills. They get to keep half of what they save. The ultimate level will enable kids to start their own businesses.
The program will ideally last 8 years. Financial literacy and responsibility takes that long to learn. And it also takes heavy caretaker involvement – Zindagi is designed with both a parent and child component. Parents are alerted as to how their child is doing and also advised on how and when to have certain important conversations based on milestones.
Zindagi’s business model rides on a monthly fee for users, with lower cost and free licenses available for schools, nonprofits, and economically disadvantaged families.
Pretty cool, right? Well if you’d like to use the software, hold your horses, as it’s still in development. But you can speed it along! Zindagi is raising seed capital to launch a propototype in the next 3 months. You can help by pledging to their Kickstarter campaign.
What have you found to work for teaching kids about financial responsibility?