ONLINE GUY: Three-pile money system can point children toward a lifetime of saving

As you're teaching your children to do things like brush their teeth you should also be encouraging them learn to be responsible with money, said the founder of Web site designed to show kids more than the value of a dollar.

"Kids need to learn about money at ever-younger ages," said Anton Simunovic, founder and CEO of ThreeJars.com (www.threejars.com). "There's no such thing as too young. You need to encourage them at a young age to learn about money in a fun way."

Simunovic believes his system, which has parents help their children to divide their money into three distinct piles, is just the thing to give children a real sense of saving, spending and sharing.

"Thirteen million families in America pay allowances, but most allowances are ineffective," Simunovic said. "(Parents are) just handing their child cash every week."

"Corporate marketers are very effective. Kids are barraged with messages online, offline, on TV and through peer pressure to spend now, spend big," he said.

"It's a problem and the statistics are downright scary," he adds. "More kids are dropping out of college due to financial pressure and credit-card debt than academic failure."

Families pay an annual $30 fee for membership to Three Jars, which provides access for both parents and children. The family decides how money gets distributed among "spend," "save" and "share" jars.

None of the children's money is actually deposited with the site. The parents act as bankers for their children, paying interest and disbursing money as children request it.

"Understanding interest is the linchpin of successful money management," Simunovic said. "Mom and dad are the bank and the interest is nominal to the parents but a lot of money to the kids.

"A portion of every dollar earned is partitioned off to save," he said. "Children instantly start saving. And, more importantly, they earn interest on those savings. The incentive to save creates a long-term habit."

Children can choose to share some of their money by donating it to dozens of real charities, including Save the Children and the Nature Conservancy. Parents provide credit-card information to make approved, secure payments to the charities.

"When kids are empowered to make decisions around their own money they are much more thoughtful," Simunovic said. "Kids will spend their parents' money till the cows come home. When they treat mom's wallet like an ATM they are learning bad habits.

"What Three Jars is doing is teaching kids to see money, think about the best ways to save their money and creating healthy habits they'll carry for life," Simunovic said. "Money is a limited resource that has to be earned and respected."

Share your Internet story with me at agibes@reviewjournal.com.