Financial Health

Designing the “Instagram of Money”

Getting teens into good financial habits—there's an app for that

Despite knowing in principle that you really ought to put money away for a rainy day, live within your means, and stay away from predatory lenders, Americans of all income levels struggle to put good financial habits into practice. Just imagine how that same advice falls on the ears of a 17-year-old living in poverty. A 401(k) just isn’t on the table.

Moneythink—an innovative Chicago-based nonprofit—is looking to change that by teaching low-income students how to manage their money and improve their financial decision-making skills through a high school classroom curriculum.

But looking to really reach teens where they’re at, they brought in IDEO.org to expand their curriculum outside of the classroom and into the everyday lives of teens with a financial literacy mobile app. Moneythink was the perfect partner with whom to go deep into the lives of teens and push the edge of digital design at IDEO.org.

Moneythink Mobile is now being used by over 3,300 students.

“What is this thing,” one student asked a friend as she installed the Moneythink Mobile app. “Oh,” she replied, “it’s Instagram for money.”

Informally dubbed the “Instagram for money,” by the teens who piloted the app, Moneythink Mobile is all about turning financial education into practical habits out in the world.

By working alongside Moneythink and testing our ideas with teens themselves in Chicago, IDEO.org delved into the experience of how teens make financial decisions, finding that financial behaviors were often rooted in unique factors such as sporadic income, varying degrees of financial dependency, and an informal creativity in financial choice—not to mention, incredibly social by nature. The more we dug in, the more we realized—our inspiration wasn’t banks, it was Snapchat.

So we sought to build the mobility and social nature of teens’ spending into the app, engaging teens in challenges that build financial awareness, skills, and habits for saving while embedding social-media-inspired elements like sharing, likes, and peer feedback. This gave students a chance to socialize and validate smart choices as they move through the app’s various financial challenges.

The Moneythink Mobile app is available in both the iTunes and Android store.

Built by mobile development partner, CauseLabs, and launched in 2014, Moneythink Mobile is now in the hands of over 3,300 students and 1,000 mentors and is bringing financial learnings out of the classroom and into the real world.

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