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Alums of the Month – April

What do your kids know about earning, saving and managing money?

Longtime friends Kevin Hanson and Adam Naor – both from the Class of 2006 – hope to make it easier for parents to teach their kids about the value of money and the benefits of saving through a fun mobile app, Pennybox, intended to be used collaboratively in the family.

Due to launch in several weeks on iPhone, with plans to release later on Android, Pennybox incentivizes tech-savvy kids ages 6-16 to improve their financial literacy.

The app allows parents and their kids to negotiate chores for which kids are paid, as well as provides task and balance tracking. In order to get their money, the kids need to request their parents pay them in cash. “We are trying to encourage kids to take control of their own finances,” Hanson said.

The Need for Financial Literacy

Hanson and Naor received financial education and guidance from their parents growing up, but they know that isn’t the case for everyone.

Hanson points to statistics on American financial stability that indicate over 38 percent of all households carry some sort of credit card debt, and that the average amount owed for balance-carrying households is $16,048.

While states are implementing standards in personal finance, the number of states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance remains unchanged since 2014 – just 17 states.

“We want to fundamentally change the way that kids learn about money, because it’s not something people are doing successfully in homes or in classrooms,” Naor said.

The pair consider this mission so vital that they each resigned from secure jobs – Hanson was a product manager at TalentBin by Monster and Naor led Google’s education team in Asia Pacific region – to start Pennybox. They are joined in the effort by Reji Eapen, a former equity analyst.

“There have definitely been some sleepless nights, but we know that if we want Pennybox to be successful we have to devote all of our time and attention to it,” Naor said.

While developing Pennybox, Hanson and Naor talked with as many parents as possible about the methods and tools they use to educate their children about money, as well as picked their brains about what kinds of features they would desire in the product. They also hired a team of engineers to build the app.

Pennybox allows for some creativity, Hanson said. “For example, a kid could shoot a video to show that their parent’s car is dirty and request to clean it for $5 via the app,” he said.

Structured Fundamental Lessons

Underlying the parent-child interface on the app is a financial education syllabus that encourages hands-on learning, Naor said.

“The first lesson that we hope kids take away from Pennybox is how to earn money, and the second is how to save money – and that goes into the concept of delayed gratification and how to put aside a percentage of your earnings for the future,” he said. Other lessons, such as spending thoughtfully, investing and donating will also be integrated into the platform.

Creating an app that appeals to both parents and kids isn’t easy. “We have two totally different customers, with two totally different and unique wants and desires,” Hanson said. “It’s been a challenge to come up with a product and ideas that cater to both.”

Nonetheless, the process has been rewarding. “Parents are really busy and they struggle to teach their kids about money. Oftentimes, parents don’t have that skill set themselves,” Naor said. “So to empower parents to help kids and improve learning outcomes and shape the way the next generation understands money is important.”

Hanson and Naor are excited about using their talents and passion to make a positive impact on the world.

“There are many things that can be done to improve communities – from environmental justice to economic development,” Naor said. “We wanted to take a stab at the one thing that we thought we knew best and were most passionate about.”

The pair says their inspiration comes, in part, from their O’Dowd experience.

“O’Dowd instilled in us a sense of responsibility to do good things for the community,” Naor said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the faculty because to some extent they helped plant the seed to get us where we are today. And we are really grateful for that.”


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