Published 1/14/2022

How do you get a feel for money when all you have is a boring number?

I have four children, and none of them really understand what money is. They know what it is abstractly, sure, it’s what you spend to get things, but they have no intuition if spending €80 on three Pokémon cards is a good idea or not. They simply know that they want the cards and don’t have them (which is a bad situation to be in, card-wise), and they know that spending €80 would mean they could have those cards, which as far as they’re concerned is an amazing situation to be in, card-wise.

(As for the cards themselves: I can tell you that €80 for three Pokémon is not a good deal, unless the cards are certain rare shinies, but that’s a topic for a very different blog post).

This isn’t unique to our home, of course: a friend’s child recently spent €500 on in-game cosmetic items (and if you’re thinking “Fortnite skins?”, you guessed correctly) before her parents noticed. And of course there’s always stories in the media of children raking up eye-wateringly-huge expenses in video games, on cell phones — basically anywhere where they can interact with money outside of their parent’s watchful gaze. And it’s not because they’re bad kids! It’s because when everything is digital, money is nothing but a number on a screen.

And children absolutely, positively, and with a 100%-iron-clad-guarantee do not relate to a number on a screen.

No banking app meets children where they are. Kids will never care about—much less be engaged by — a balance displayed above a listing of debits and withdrawals. (Heck, even we adults can sometimes feel their eyes glazing over at that! Spreadsheets are hardly famous for being compelling bedtime reading.) And when kids don’t know what those numbers mean — when they don’t intuitively understand how they can affect their world and the things they can do within it — it’s even harder to care.

The way that Fortnite skin story ended, incidentally, is with the parents removing their kid’s access to their credit card. And while that worked, I think it’s not the best outcome for one simple reason: the child learned that money could be dangerous, yes, but didn’t actually learn how it works.

They’re growing up in a digital economy, one that’s only becoming more and more complex, with ever fewer barriers to entry. When they play a game, an opportunity to spend real money on 500 gems worth of in-game currency is just a tap away. There’s also any number of scammers who don’t care who they sell on cryptocurrency, or stocks, or digital assets, or NFTs… and when the money’s sent, it’s gone, and the sellers definitely do not care if the buyer was just a kid, spending money from their parent’s accounts.

The fact is, knowing about money protects children from being taken advantage of. And yes, I hate that this is something we have to protect our children from. I don’t like having to worry about them being taken advantage of. It sucks.

Thankfully, there’s a better way we can learn just that then through hard-won (and very expensive) experience. That’s education. And that’s where the magic happens, because knowing about money empowers children. It lets them understand the world, see how it operates, and crucially, begin to change it.

Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in, and nobody is going to be spending more time in that world than our children — mine, yours if you have them, and everyone else’s too. Kids deserve to have their votes counted. They deserve to know what their spending means.

And that brings me to what we’re doing at Tjing.

We want kids to understand money, to know what it means and how it works, from as early as possible. We believe there’s no reason a child shouldn’t be able to handle money from the day they begin interacting with a phone, tablet or computer. We don’t want them to be locked out from the world of commerce, of trading, or changing things for the better!

But at the same time, we want kids to have fun with it. Finances shouldn’t be dour and staid, dull as spreadsheets. We’re not a boring bank. We want to be fun. Money should be empowering! That’s why Tjing is designed to be a thoughtful and welcoming experience — not a bargain-basement app, but something you look forward to using — regardless of your age.

Tjing is a way to teach children to understand money, to learn what it means, what it represents, and to know that they’re spending it intentionally. It’s a fun place that is safe for them to explore and play around in.

We’re a team of creatives and technologists doing everything we can to build something that sets the next generation up for economic freedom and independence. Together we have a total of 20 kids that all need a better way of handling their economy and we firmly believe that if we succeed, the whole world’s going to get better.

And if this sounds like the kinda thing you’re interested in exploring too, we’d love to hear from you.