The Art of Allowance Project is now live!
“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – which was an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics, making good drama and supporting myself through my words – imagining that was a mountain, a distant mountain. My goal.”— Neil Gaiman (from his University of the Arts 2012 Commencement Speech)
Our goal — our mission — is to help parents raise money-smart kids.
To achieve this goal, we collaborate with community-conscious credit union partners who make a difference by helping families live better lives.
We also provide engaging programs for kids, like The Money Mammals for young children and the upcoming Adolescent$ portal for teens and tweens. We even create the corresponding content in a variety of media forms — videos, games, books, apps.
And, of course, we offer a structure for parents to capture that excitement and to turn it into real-world learning.
We’ve been building our programs for over a decade, and today they come together more cohesively than ever before. Our materials are designed to guide rather than tell. Encourage rather than judge.
We want to help families thrive. The Art of Allowance Project is the next step on our journey.
Here’s how we’ve arrived where we are today.
The First Step
Our journey began when my daughter was six months old. My wife and I wanted to raise financially literate kids. Naturally, we had other hopes for our children, but we knew that fulfilling lives were easier to build on a bedrock of smart money choices.
As a producer of kids entertainment, I saw firsthand how effectively it captivated children. Unfortunately, in most cases it primed them to consume “ancillaries” — the entertainment business term for toys, games and clothing that explode out of every popular show.
What if we could instead encourage kids to get excited not about consumption, but rather about saving money, charitable giving and smart spending?
The answer to this question came in the form of The Money Mammals and their mantra, “We’ll Share & Save & Spend Smart Too!”
Our journey had begun.
The Second Step
Soon after The Money Mammals began to engage kids, we discovered that our mission meshed with that of credit unions. As member-owned cooperatives, credit unions were socially conscious institutions before that was a thing. In fact, the fifth (of seven) cooperative principle guides them to provide financial education for their members.
We began to help credit unions help parents raise kids who were excited about money smarts. They could open Money Mammals kids accounts and begin their own lifelong journeys to money empowerment.
With time, though, it became clear that we needed more than just a catalyst for financial literacy learning like The Money Mammals provided. Sure, the kids were using our books, videos and apps featuring Joe the Monkey and his friends to learn money smarts. But if they weren’t allowed to practice with real, physical dollars, then the learning remained abstract — a lot of theory but no practice.
The Third Step
We needed to do more than help parents get kids excited and open savings accounts. The parents needed a guide to leverage the engagement. And the kids needed to learn to make smart money choices and to save for goals through their new accounts. They needed to become Money Mammals, learning and, yes, making low-stakes mistakes of their own along the way.
Based on my own experience, conversations with parents and research on motivation theory and financial literacy, I wrote The Art of Allowance: A Short, Practical Guide to Raising Money-Smart, Money-Empowered Kids. The book is not a do-what-I-say approach. Rather, it is a guide for families’ money-smart journeys.
Because every family will pursue a different path during their journey.
We began to add Art of Allowance materials to our Money Mammals Kids Club program, but we did it in an ad hoc manner.
The Next Step: The Art of Allowance Project & Adolescent$
We created The Art of Allowance Project to help families raise money-smart kids. The Money Mammals continue to excite kids, but now we have new material built atop The Art of Allowance foundation in all forms of media — videos, classes, essays, podcasts. And we’ve designed it to help parents find what they need when they need it.
As a dad of teens, I realized that money learning doesn’t stop once kids “graduate” from The Money Mammals. Far from it. We live in a consumer society, and as kids get older, we need to help them navigate the confusion that is out there. That’s why we created Adolescent$, our new program for tweens and teens, which launches in April.
Our credit union partners now have a robust program that can help them build loyalty across generations by helping families help themselves. I’ve yet to meet a parent who doesn’t want to raise a money-smart child, and educated members at any age are better members.
Understandably, our program is better today than when we first launched it as The Money Mammals Kids Club over a decade ago. And we are working to make it even better with every passing day.
I’ll close where we began.
“And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”— Neil Gaiman
If you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s full speech, please listen in when you can. It’s incredibly inspiring. I use his vision of the mountain as a guide.
Every journey to every mountain begins — or continues — with a single step.
I hope you’ll join us to take this next step in our journey.
You can find out more here.