Money Foundations for Kids: Compound Interest

Updated: September 7, 2024

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As a parent, you teach your children to take care of their physical and emotional health. It only makes sense to teach them to take care of their financial health as well. Whether you're saving or borrowing money, compound interest plays a significant part in your financial health.

Learning about compound interest instills kids with crucial life lessons regarding patience and delayed gratification. Albert Einstein said, "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it; he who doesn't pays it." Once children understand compound interest, they may be more inclined to save their money, avoid credit card debt and become financially healthy adults.

Some people don't learn financial literacy until it's almost too late. It's how they end up with thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt or near retirement age without saving a penny. If children learn to manage money early in life, some of adulthood's worst financial mistakes could be avoided.

Compound interest money lessons should be relatable to children's lives. We've got exciting and fun ways to learn about compound interest that will stick with kids into adulthood.

What Is Compound Interest?

Compound interest is the interest calculated on the initial principal of a deposit plus the accumulated interest from prior periods on a loan or deposit. It is also known as interest on interest. Compound interest will grow at a faster pace than simple interest, which is calculated on the principal amount only. It compounds on a schedule that could be daily, monthly, annually or even continuously.

This graph shows the effect that saving even \$1,000 can have when compound interest is earned over several years.

The Magic of Compound Interest

Understanding compound interest is easy once you get the hang of it. If you put \$10,000 in an account earning only 5% interest and left it alone, at the end of one year, you’d have over \$500 of interest earnings. Leave it there another year, and you’ve just made \$1,000 in interest. By the end of the third year, you’ve got over \$1,600 just in interest.

When you put money in a compound interest-earning account and leave it alone, your money will grow. If you add more money, then you’re really making your money work for you. Because now you’re not only earning interest on the original amount, you’re earning interest on your interest. It’s almost like magic!

Activities to Teach Kids About Compound Interest

You can teach children about compound interest in entertaining and lively ways, depending on their age. It can be a hard concept to grasp, but with visual aids and by using toys they already know and love, you can get this concept across to them in a way that will stick with them.

Bank of Treats Waiting Game

Ages: 4–11
Supplies:

• Bank printable
• Bag of candy: M&Ms, Skittle, gummy bears, mini marshmallows or other favorite treat.
• Tape or glue stick
• Crayons, paint, stickers and other art supplies
OBJECT OF THE GAME

This game involves giving your child a small amount of a favorite treat to put in their “bank” and then providing the child with more treats in their bank after a short time to show how compound interest and delayed gratification can earn them more of their favorite treat. This is a good after-dinner game.

Play the Bank of Treats Waiting Game With Your Child
Download Printable Game

Compound Interest Marathon

Ages: 8–13
Supplies:

• Label printables "Compound Interest" and "Interest-Free"
• Two large jars
• 78 quarters or other denomination of coins
OBJECT OF THE GAME

To teach your child about the power of compound interest, you can spark their curiosity by setting out two big empty jars, giving them some coins, and telling them that they can earn money by completing a “marathon” around the yard.

Play the Compound Interest Marathon Game With Your Child
Download Printable Game

Double the Penny Challenge

Ages: 13-18
Supplies:

• Double the Penny Challenge Worksheet and Label Printable
• \$81.92 in various denominations
• Empty Jar
OBJECT OF THE GAME

The Double the Penny Challenge will teach your teen how compound interest can add up quickly, but only if you leave your money alone. This is a good exercise if your teen has been asking for money for something they want or asking how they can earn more money by doing things around the house.

Play the Double the Penny Challenge Game With Your Child
Download Printable Game

The Power of Compound Interest Calculator

While it’s entertaining for kids to play games to learn how compound interest works in their lives, it can also be fun for them to see how the numbers look when they are plugged into a calculator. This exercise can also be eye-opening for parents as well.

Try the Compound Interest Calculator

After 10 years, your total balance is \$29,542
After 10 years
your total balance is
\$29,542
Growth Over Time
Initial Amount
Total Contributions
Total Interest Earned
Totals by Source
Initial Amount:
\$5,000
Total Contributions:
\$18,000
Total Interest Earned:
\$6,542
Compound Interest Table
YearStarting BalanceAnnual ContributionsCumulative ContributionsInterest EarnedCumulative InterestTotal Balance
1\$5,000\$1,800\$1,800\$237\$237\$7,037
2\$7,037\$1,800\$3,600\$320\$557\$9,157
3\$9,157\$1,800\$5,400\$406\$964\$11,364
4\$11,364\$1,800\$7,200\$496\$1,460\$13,660
5\$13,660\$1,800\$9,000\$590\$2,050\$16,050
6\$16,050\$1,800\$10,800\$687\$2,737\$18,537
7\$18,537\$1,800\$12,600\$789\$3,526\$21,126
8\$21,126\$1,800\$14,400\$894\$4,420\$23,820
9\$23,820\$1,800\$16,200\$1,004\$5,424\$26,624
10\$26,624\$1,800\$18,000\$1,118\$6,542\$29,542
Ask the experts:

How should compound interest be taught to children?

Certified Public Accountant & Blogger at Managing & Making Money

Compound interest should be taught to kids before they enter the workplace and start making decisions on contributing to a retirement account.

One way to demonstrate this concept is to get your child a high-yield savings account. There are a few options out there. When they are in their pre-teens and beyond, you can show them how they are earning interesting on their money and then explain how that interest turns around and makes more interest. They can even have an app downloaded on their devices to give them the opportunity to view balances independently. Depending on the age of the child, there are also many books, workbooks, videos and more out there for you to sit with your child and teach them. There are even classes you can put your kids through once they are pre-teens. Get in touch with your community; they may even have classes like this offered through your town, village, library, etc.

There is a ton of information out there, do what is best for your child.

5 Ways Parents Can Encourage Saving

Parents can teach kids about saving money and investing as soon as children understand how money works. For example, children may know that they can use their \$10 birthday money to buy a Fortnite T-shirt or some of their favorite candy bars. By showing children the power of savings early, this value will be instilled in children for the rest of their lives. With these methods, parents can encourage saving instead of spending.

1. Teach Kids to Spend, Save and Donate

When Anisa Kurji, podcast host of Kids Money and More wanted to teach her kids about how to save, she used a three-jar system with jars labeled "spend," "save" and "donate." Initially, the "save" jar money didn't have much meaning to the kids as it was going to their bank account," she said. "It was a black hole that they didn't know if or when they'd see that money again."

So, she changed the purpose of the money to saving for a specific goal. They'd have to be patient and not spend the money until they reached their goal. She said they were instantly motivated to add more to their jar and not spend it the same day they got it. "After awhile, I'll encourage them to put money aside for longer-term savings and investing. But for their first few goals, it shouldn't take too long to achieve, or children will lose interest in saving."

2. Set up a Savings Thermometer

One day, financial coach Larry Duffany's son asked his parents for the newest electronic game. Instead of giving him the game, Duffany said they set up a savings thermometer. As his son was saving his money, he colored in the chart on the thermometer to see his progress. "Visual cues are important for younger learners," said Duffany. "He used this tracking chart to measure his progress and very quickly worked his way to that goal."

3. Play the Game of Monopoly

Monopoly is an excellent tool for teaching older children about money. One rainy afternoon, set up the game and see how fast your children learn lessons about saving and spending. They'll learn that if you are patient and use money as a tool to make more money, you'll come out ahead.

“A game like Monopoly illustrates the power of putting money to work,” said Brian McEvoy, senior vice president and senior retail banking officer at Webster Five. “Kids learn that if they own a property, anyone landing on it has to pay, and the more you invest in that property by putting houses or hotels on it, the more you get in return.”

4. Encourage Kids to Participate in the Buying Process

When you're out and about with your children or shopping online, show them how to read prices. For example, if you're in the grocery store, and they insist on Cheerios, point out how the generic version of Cheerios is cheaper. Tell them if they settle on the generic version, they can save the difference and put it toward a new toy or game they want instead.

"(Ask) your kids to search for the cheapest option available online (or in-store) whenever they see something they like," said Freya Kuka, a personal finance expert and founder of the personal finance blog Collecting Cents. "This helps your kids contribute to the family's economic wellbeing while also taking some of the load of your back."

5. Challenge Kids to Keep Their Money in Savings

Abraham said that a straightforward option is to add interest to your child's piggy bank whenever they save their money in it for a month. "Showing them that by delaying their gratification, they can increase their rewards can be made educational, fun and rewarding."

Insight From Experts on Teaching Your Children About Money

1. Why should children learn about finance and compound interest?
2. How old should kids be when you start teaching them good financial habits?
3. How should compound interest be taught to children?
4. What is one positive outcome you may expect to see if your child learns good financial lessons?
5. How can children be encouraged to save money?
6. What challenges will the children of today face when trying to save money for tomorrow?
Ashley Lebaron-Black, Ph.D.Assistant Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University
Justin Gabriel, CFPFinancial Planning Manager at Pitzl Financial
Tasha Haynes, CPACertified Public Accountant & Blogger at Managing & Making Money
Paul Stansbie, PhDAssociate Dean, College of Education and Community Innovation at Grand Valley State University
Julie Gauderman, DNAPAssociate Director, Nurse Anesthesia at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Prakash Dheeriya, PhDProfessor of Finance at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Author of "Finance for Kidz" series
Matt RuttenbergFounder of SureLI and CMO & Shareholder of Life, Inc. Retirement Services
Deborah Meyer, CFP®, CPA/PFS, CEPACEO at WorthyNest
Alison HooperAssistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama
Shannon SerpetteFinancial Writer
William SchmidtUniversity Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago
J. J. Wenrich, CFPPresident and Founder of Wenrich Wealth
Frances Marie GipsonClinical Associate Professor & Director, Urban Leadership Program
Christi HowardMom Life Coach and Founder of Me Time 4 Mom
Irina FallsProfessor of Education at University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Kevin RuthFounder of Give-Get
Cathy KimAssistant Professor, Tech Integration & Learning Sciences, Math & Science Education at the Pacific Lutheran University
Vinny TafuroFounder of the Institute for Economic Evolution
Matthew JosephAssociate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education at Duquesne University
Lissanna Follari, PhDFaculty and Program Director of Inclusive Early Childhood Education at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Jenna A. RobinsonPresident of James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
Theresa RussoProfessor Human Development and Family Studies at SUNY Oneonta
Kathryn WelbyDirector, K-12 Teacher Preparation Program and Professor of Practice at Merrimack College
Christopher MeidlAssociate Professor at Duquesne University
Charlotte MichailidisFounder & CEO
Carole MakelaProfessor at Colorado State University's College of Health and Human Sciences
Carolyn SloanFounder & CEO at TeachMe TV
Anthony SafferCertified Financial Planner (CFP) at One Degree Advisors
Robert S. BacarellaFounder, President & Portfolio Manager of Monetta Financial Services
Dorethia KellyFinancial Expert, Founder of #MoneyChat
Toni VerburgMath Support Specialist at Kent ISD
Lisabeth DiLalla, PhDProfessor in the School of Medicine at Southern Illinois University
Fulya ErsoyAssistant Professor of Economics at Loyola Marymount University
Larry DuffanyPrincipal Owner, Larry the Money Medic
Robert R. JohnsonProfessor of Finance at Creighton University
Dr. Lisa GiddingsAssociate Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Patrick BoyleProfessor of Finance at King’s College London
Arash FayzCo-Founder and Executive Director at LA Tutors 123
Ron AuerbachProfessor of Accounting, Bookkeeping and Economics at City University

Further Resources for Teaching Kids About Money

Still need more ideas for educating children about money? Additional resources for teaching kids about finances and compound interest include:

• A Financial Literacy Handbook for All Life Stages: This MoneyGeek guide provides insightful resources and helps you establish good financial habits at all stages of your life. You'll find information on understanding your paycheck, student loans, buying a car on credit, understanding home loans and saving for retirement.
• Financial Peace Junior: This kit from Dave Ramsey comes with fun stories and activities that teach children about money, work, giving, saving and spending their money in smart ways.
• Foundations in Personal Finance: Another valuable Dave Ramsey resource is Foundations in Personal Finance, software that teaches teenagers financial literacy and essential topics such as saving and budgeting.
• Greenlight: Greenlight is a debit card for kids that parents can monitor. Parents can put kids' allowance on autopilot and create in-app chore lists while tying the work to perks.
• Kiddie Kredit: Kiddie Kredit is an app kids can use to track their chores and show them how to use their money wisely.
• Kids Money and More: This podcast teaches kids about a new financial topic, including coming up with basic budgets and making SMART money goals.
• Finance For Kidz: Finance for Kidz is a set of books covering the basic topics of finances presented in an engaging manner, so as to get kids interested in various aspects of finance.

About Nathan Paulus

Kylie Ora Lobell is a personal finance writer covering credit cards, savings and loans for Slickdeals, SoFi, OppLoans and MoneyGeek.