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Insider’s guide to invisible money

05 September 2018

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

If you feel like you’ll never keep up with your tech-savvy kids, don’t despair. One of the most important tech topics they need to learn about is spending money in a digital world. Find out just how much kids are getting to grips with invisible money and get some talking points to help the whole family keep up with the move towards a cashless society. 

Technology use is a common theme for parental frustration. Even millennial parents experienced some of their childhood and – in some cases – teen years without the benefit of a mobile device to keep them entertained. For the kids and teens of today, doing things digitally is the status quo, whether it’s homework assignments, sharing photos on Instagram or gaming online with friends. And this can give many parents the sense that their kids are running circles around them when it comes to technology. Until artificial intelligence is taking care of our household chores, not to mention our role as breadwinners, parents simply don’t have as much time as kids do to immerse themselves in technology.

New territory for technology and money

One of the areas where parents are likely to have more technology experience is in spending money. With the Reserve Bank of Australia reporting that just over a third of transactions in Australia are being made using cash[1], it’s clear that digital transactions – whether in person or online – are becoming the norm. As the family members footing the bill for many household and discretionary costs, parents are likely to be reasonably familiar with online shopping and tap and go transactions by now.

So if parents are getting used to these new technologies, they could be expected to come up in conversations with kids about money. But according to the Share the Dream report from the FPA, this isn’t generally the case. Although 50% of parents have had conversations with kids about money in the last six months, only 19% have discussed buying things online and 13% have talked about in-app purchases. And the number of parents talking about Afterpay is smaller still -just 5%[2].

What are kids experiencing already?

It could be argued that parents of younger kids needn’t concern themselves with these money topics until their kids are older. But figures from the report show the numbers of pre-teens taking part in digital transactions are fairly significant, with almost half of children aged 9-13 having bought a mobile app or made an in-app or game console purchase. Making online purchases (30%) and using a debit or credit card (31%) is less common in this age group, but it’s still something almost one third of kids have experience with.

Fast forward to the teen years and we see an age group that’s much more engaged with invisible money, with around two thirds of 14-18 year olds involved in all three types of transactions. And nearly half of them (47%) are more likely to have interest in buying online, over shopping for things in the real world[3].

Taking steps to tackle invisible money

Although the Share the Dream report shows parents are somewhat reluctant to tackle invisible money topics, they’re well aware that it’s something that could well have an impact on their children’s future financial wellbeing. Two thirds of parents surveyed agree that digital money is making it harder for children to grasp the value of real money. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that the prevalence of cashless transactions is getting in the way of teaching the fundamentals of financial literacy.

To give parents tips and insights to guide their kids through all sorts of money related issues and experiences, we have published a new e-book, How to talk money with children. Free to download, it’s packed with advice from parents and planners on how to tackle important conversations and bring money out in the open in your family.

As well as a list of family-friendly apps kids can use to learn about and manage money, the e-book includes a series of money-savvy tips from clinical child psychologist Emma Spencer. Her advice includes things like how to educate kids about Afterpay so they can get in the habit of saving money for the things they want, rather than expecting to always buy instantly.

“As a teen, I would put things on layby to slowly pay them off, so I understood the value of what I was buying,” says Emma. “Now, teens use AfterPay without understanding how the payments work. Speak to your children about the pitfalls of buy-now-pay later shopping. Instead, encourage them to save for what they need, and not to go into debt for something they want.”

Download our free eBook now for ideas and activities to help kids grasp the value of money in a digital world.

[1] Reserve Bank of Australia, How Australians Pay Snapshot 2016, 37% of payments are made with cash https://www.rba.gov.au/snapshots/how-australians-pay-snapshot/

[2] Share the Dream report, August 2018, page 6

[3] Share the Dream report, August 2018, page 12

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