Just 5 percent of Americans learn how to manage money before graduating from high school and 18-24 year-olds have become the fastest growing age segment filing for bankruptcy. Americans, pulled into a recession tied to hopes a housing bubble would enable them to spend greater sums, continue racking up debt faster than savings.

Among parents with children ages 23-28, a recent 2010 Families & Money survey found 41 percent of parents still providing some level of financial support to their children with just 35 percent expecting their grown children to achieve financial independence by age 30.

Enter the Ann Arbor startup FamilyMint.com, which empowes kids to take charge of their own finances.

FamilyMint CEO Jeff Eusebio has five kids while his friend, co-founder and President Bob Masterson has eight (13 between them). They quickly saw the value of an online tool that helps kids take charge of their money, improving their behavior while empowering them to take responsibility for and manage their dollars wisely.

Within weeks of launching FamilyMint.com, the site had picked up more than 2,500 registered users from 46 states. This week the firm begins offering a premium version for $4.95 a month or $49.50 per year while the free version remains available to everyone who is interested in the service.

“We literally see a change in behavior in kids as focusing on setting and achieving goals becomes a natural part of their daily financial lives,’’ Masterson said. “Our kids can accumulate literally hundreds of dollars in their rooms and they always want things. FamilyMint teaches them how to save, budget and plan. As soon as I heard the idea I thought ‘It’s a no brainer.’ Kids need this.’’

HomeSchool blogger Lori Lynn tried FamilyMint with her kids and wrote, “After years of me preaching, ‘Spend your money wisely. Don’t buy that junk. Think about where you are spending your money!’ FamilyMint SHOWED the boys exactly all those things in the matter of a few weeks.”

Constantly wanting more than they or their parents can afford doesn’t make any one happy, Eusebio said but rather makes them feel out of control. A child who can use a simple online calculator to figure out precisely how much to save each week to buy a dream toy or gadget quickly takes charge of finances and realizes how simple it can be to achieve goals.

He recalls his 9-year-old asking him “What is interest?’’ when he was setting up interest rates for his kids in the tool and being amazed at experiencing the teaching opportunities the tool provides.

A major U.S. bank earlier this year changed its policies regarding debit cards after thousands of young people nationwide used debit cards that racked up large delinquent fees for going pennies over their balances. FamilyMint combines modern technology with old-fashioned lessons like the importance of building a savings cushion and using virtual envelopes to help save money for bigger goals.

The site also offers:
* Parent interface. Creates a parent-banker interface allowing parents to be the banker to their children.
* Kids interfaces. Junior and advanced interfaces create an easy-to-use site they enjoy returning to regularly.
* Allowance automation. Sets up an automated allowance function to manage payments automatically. Parents and kids enjoy all of the benefits of giving allowance with none of the pain.
* Automated interest. Since parents act as their kids’ banker, they are free to set any interest rate they want in order to motivate their kids to save.
* Matching deposits. Helps provide incentives for kids to save more through matching deposits parents can set up.
* Transactions. Makes it simple for children and parents to see exactly where the money is going from and being spent on.
* Goals. Kids can set up as many goals as they choose with guidance on how to achieve them.
* Personalization. Personal photos can be uploaded for user profiles and goals.

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