Kids, Cards and Invisible Money


Invisible Money


I recently read a Facebook post about kids and money that definitely created (let’s put this politely) heated debate.  The post was advertising a prepaid Visa card for kids that parents use to assign pocket money (an allowance for those in other parts of the world) which teaches kids the value of money in the ‘modern world’. Think a digital wallet/debit card crossed with a piggy bank. I like to think of it as teaching kids about ‘invisible money’.


Are cards a good way to teach kids about money?

On the surface it seemed like a good idea particularly as over 60% of payments are made electronically these days.  And as I age I realise the importance of moving with the times and technology, and teaching kids money skills that are relevant to the real world now, rather than 20 years ago.

Then I started thinking is this a best way to teach kids about money?

Teaching kids about money is one of life’s most important lessons that is so often left to chance.  So in many ways any financial lesson is better than none. But if you want to get ‘bang for your buck’ so to speak, there’s probably a couple of things to consider when it comes to ‘invisible’ money.


Understanding invisible money

For kids new to money, the concept of ‘invisible money’ is particularly hard to grasp. This is because it’s an abstract idea that little brains struggle to get their heads around until they are a little older.

Take for example teaching kids about time. Time is a very abstract concept to a child.  To help kids first understand time we link it to concrete experiences snack time, story time, lunch time etc. The same goes with money. To successfully teach kids about money we need to first link it with concrete experiences.  This gives them a personal frame of reference to add to their memory banks (pardon the pun) so they understand how physical money is used in the world.


What kids need to know

Basically, little brains learn new concepts best with tangible things. So its important they get familiar with actual physical money (or play money).

The way we use cards these days to pay for nearly everything, means that kids often equate a card with an unlimited supply of money. In their eyes they’re seeing a card being tapped in exchange for items – what they don’t see is the ‘invisible’ money and ‘trade’ that goes on behind the scenes.

Invisible Money

For kids to understand the concept of ‘invisible’ money they really have to have a good base in counting and numbers, note and coin recognition, and the concept of exchange. Simple things like playing stores with real or play money, coin activities and board games like monopoly help develop these skills.

If they’ve got a strong foundation and understanding of physical money first & how it works then cards would be the next progression into the ‘modern’ world of money.

But really if you’re a card person or not, it’s important to remember one thing,

Have the conversations!

If you’re using physical money or ‘invisible’ money take the time to explain what’s going on – kids learn so much from us even when we aren’t intentionally ‘teaching’.



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