Free App Teaches Teens Practical Personal Finance Tips


The Coalition for Debtor Education, a nonprofit based at Fordham Law School, launched a free app for iPhones, iTunes, and Androids called NYCMoneySmarts. The app, aimed to educate teenagers about personal finance, provides expert guidance and practical tips about planning for college, using a debit card, as well as practical information about credit, saving and budgeting.

The app was born out of topics that the Coalition already presents in classes to teens, at nonprofits, schools, social service organizations, and other community groups in the New York City. Teaching financial education is at the core of the Coalition’s work, which partners with trained volunteers, many of whom have a financial services background. Its mission is to assist consumers, particularly vulnerable populations, understand and improve their ability to manage their financial affairs.

“In New York State, personal finance education is not mandated to be taught in high school and we’re dedicated to helping to fill that void. We want to educate younger people to successfully manage their personal finances now and in the future,” said Carol O’Rourke, Executive Director at the Coalition for Debtor Education, who also spent many years on Wall Street. “We created this accessible app to accommodate a younger audience who manages so much of their lives on their phones.”

Practical tips provided on the app include:

  • College planning: Seek grants from the federal government. Federal Pell Grants are based on need or merit. Students who receive Pell Grants do not have to repay them, and they can be as much as $5,500.
  • Identity theft: Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Memorize your Social Security number as a safe alternative.
  • Banking: It’s safer to keep your money in the bank than in your sock drawer. It will earn interest in the bank, and the temptation to spend it will decrease.
  • Spending: Set a realistic budget on what you can afford to spend each week and stick with the plan.
  • Saving: The younger you are when you start a retirement plan the better – it gives your money a lot longer to work at earning a good return.

The app gauges users’ financial fluency through a series of questions about issues including banking, spending, saving, and identity theft. The app provides brief explanations for each answer and links to additional information to guide consumers who want to learn more about a topic.

While the Coalition will not capture any individual or personal information, it will track what financial information people know, and what information might need to be supplemented. The app will continually be updated based on this feedback. A future section already planned to be added to the app is on “Investing.”

The grant for the app was provided by The Ludwig Family Foundation, and was created by app design developer Mobomo, both based in Washington, D.C.

“At Mobomo, we love bringing our client’s ideas from concept to reality,” said Brian Lacey of Mobomo. “Designing and developing mobile apps and websites is our passion. And it’s especially gratifying to develop apps that are not only fun, but educational. The NYCMoneySmarts app was an honor to design and we can’t wait to share it!”

The app can be found in Google Play on Android phones, and in the app store on iPhones and iTunes.