An app for that? Five financial apps for your teen.

It's never been easier to help your child manage spending and saving. In fact, there's an app for that.

This is great news for me, because I'm all for simplifying processes. My plan has always been to use a couple different accounts with my teen, both locally and at an online bank (where we can typically get a better interest rate). I'm also exploring options to help him put a toe into the water regarding investing. For charitable giving he uses our local gem of a resource SHARE Charlotte and periodically gives to several international charities as well. As for how much of his existing funds are designated for giving, well, that's on a regularly-updated post-it note stuck to the inside of an old, repurposed checkbook.

It's a little bit of a disjointed experience for him, so when I saw this Wall Street Journal article highlight five apps or mobile-friendly sites that can be used to help kids save, spend and donate, I decided to check it out.

All the services featured share some similarities (some are free, most have pretty low monthly or annual fees). All appear user friendly and easy to use. See below for my thoughts on their differences and when they might be the best fit.

BusyKid shares many features with the other apps listed but what caught my attention was the added benefit of allowing kids to buy and sell fractional shares of stock. This is done through a partnership with Stockpile. You'll be asked to open a custodial account and according to the BusyKid website there is a $2.99 fee per transaction. This feature was unique to all five services featured, so worth a look if it's something interesting for your teen. BusyKid also provides a set list of charities to which your child can donate. As of now you aren't able to add any additional charities, although that's coming in the future.

Chore Check
This is more of a straight up "chores for allowance" app. Again, it looks very easy to use. Because our family doesn't pay allowance based on specific chores, it's not a good fit for us. But it's a nice option if you are looking for something a little more straightforward without the layered functionality of some of the other apps featured.

Current has several really useful features like the ability to automate allowance, limit and block spending in certain categories and automate savings by "rounding up" purchases. As for giving, if the charity your child is interested in isn't listed, the company says they are willing to add it. I also like the ability to use this with an existing bank account. Current, along with several other of these apps, also makes it easy for kids to separate their spend, save and give "wallets." That's a bigger deal than it sounds like, and much easier than trying to keep records manually.

This app is also a prepaid debit card with many of the benefits of Current. What I love about FamZoo is the amount of financial literacy they build into their product design and marketing. Creative touches include a parent-paid interest option, informal loan tracking (you can charge your child an interest rate if you want to), ability to set savings goals, etc. Follow founder Bill Dwight (@FamZoo) for a steady stream of good ideas around kids and financial literacy.

Greenlight is more of a pure spending app for your child. Key features that set it apart include the ability to pre-approve activity down to a specific store. This app will keep it simple and is great if your family already has a plan in place for saving and giving with a primary goal of finding a pre-paid card with a lot of parental control.

Now that I've spent some time with each these five services, will we be switching to any of them? Probably not. The processes we have in place now may be a little clunky, but they work pretty well for us (and they meet some other goals that we have as a family) and so we're sticking with our current systems. As for charitable giving, my teen is more of a "free range" giver, as he explores causes and methods of giving that are meaningful to him. I'd hate to limit him to a more narrow list of options.

So while I'm interested in the investing ability through BusyKid, and I particularly love the depth of FamZoo, I think we will stay with the homegrown system we currently have. If I had it to do over again, I would very likely consider these options and probably start with a deeper dive into FamZoo.

Whether you decide to go with one of these services or come up with your own system, allow me to climb on my soapbox one final time, please. Most of these apps allow kids and parents to communicate via text and online messaging, which I think is fantastic since my teen seems to forget how to dial a phone on a regular basis (but can always remember how to text). But, successful financial literacy requires lots of parent involvement. No app or online education can take the place of the coaching and conversations we should have with our kids about money and managing it successfully. Ideally, all this great tech can support that one on one time. helps prep your college students for the real world

As I watch friends pack up college-aged kids and head off to campuses around the country it hit me: these kids need to have a solid foundation in financial literacy. Not just "need" like you need a good slice of pizza every once in a while, but they need it in a life-changing you-better-make-sure-you-got-this kind of way.

So while you're waiting for your first "proof of life" text or email, I hope this resource will be just the productive distraction you need.

I've already written about Visa's Practical Money Skills website in an earlier post as a great find for middle and high school aged kids. is Visa's offering for college students. It focuses primarily on credit but you'll find some other good stuff in there as well. 

Different parts of the site will appeal to different students depending on where they are in their college journey. The list below is divided by the stage your child is in--either a college freshman or just heading out into the real, post-college world.

New to college
Money Guides - Look here for help with renting a car, thinking about housing, saving money on textbooks and more. 
Break the Code - Quick dive into choosing the best credit card, what goes into a credit score and how to look at your credit report. If they are up for it have them look over The Facts for some quick "do's and don'ts" of credit.
Money101 Student Workbook - It's not nearly as awful as the word "workbook" makes it sound. In fact it's an easy read, full of really relevant info for kids about to be on their own for the first time, with topics like good record keeping, which I love. If you aren't comfortable walking your kid through the process when you reconcile your own bank account, this workbook has a simplified example on page 19 that will do the trick. 

Graduating college
Welcome to the Real World - Information on paperwork and taxes, budgeting and student loans. 
The Facts - Helpful even if your college graduate is comfortable with concepts around credit and debt, particularly "7 Common Mistakes That Can Lower Your Credit Score."

Start here: The #FinLit Menu for Parents

When my son entered his teens I started to get serious about financial literacy in a way I should have been years before.  The good new...