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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Getting teenagers to pay attention to the dirty laundry on their bedroom floor is hard enough, so how can parents get their kids to pay attention to their personal finances?

A new social networking site, MatchFund, says it has the answer – an online financial tool for kids that blends the slickest social networking technologies with user-friendly tips on saving money and setting the stage for a solid financial life.

Kids can use all the help they can get when it comes to their personal finances. A recent Gallup poll done in collaboration with Operation HOPE reports that 40% of American teenagers don’t believe that staying in school and getting a decent education translates into a higher standard of living. In addition, 33% of American teens don’t buy into the “American Dream” of buying their own home.

Says Operation HOPE’s John Hope Bryant, “financial literacy, or what we call 'the language of money' is a practical and tangible lesson that can empower youth to plan for their futures today.”

To help young people learn that lesson, MatchFund allows kids to “connect” with their money “in a format they understand”.

It starts with a simple premise – that a teenager’s early experience with money can predict a lifetime of both bad and good financial habits. The site points out that the average teenager in this country spends more than $6,000 a year, but not necessarily in a responsible way.

What kids need -- and MatchFund aims to provide-- is a plan built on several key concepts.

•    Kids need a plan.

•    Kids will buy less today if they see how it affects a larger purchase tomorrow.

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•    It takes real money to learn real skills.

To ease teenagers into healthy money habits, MatchFund uses an interactive social-networking framework that’s broken down into six themes:

•    Goal-Oriented, Strategic Savings
•    Save with Family & Friends
•    Safe & Secure
•    Set Good Financial Habits
•    Custom Tools For Your Needs
•    Analytic Graphs & Breakdowns

The site asks kids and their parents to establish savings accounts for key savings goals (for things like school supplies, clothes, and cell phones). MatchFund is linked with partner banks so kids and their parents can work online to meet specific financial goals.

MatchFund’s social networking tool allows teens to connect online with friends and family members, who can safely and securely contribute funds for college or birthday gifts.

MatchFund then provides teens and their families with free financial tools that help them shape their budgets and track their spending practices. It also allows kids to invest in an “interactive” stock market and provides updates on college loans, grants and scholarships.

Once a financial goal is met, the site enables teens to send money accumulated on the Web site to their bank accounts, where the money can be spent and tracked by

It’s a cool, quirky site that deserves a closer look from parents. If your child’s financial habits are anything like their cleaning habits, it might be one of the best financial moves Mom or Dad ever make.

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