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Kids have to learn financial literacy sometime — or should, depending on your parenting philosophy. The ones who don’t risk becoming dependent on family and friends for basic necessities well into adulthood. According to a survey by Ameriprise Financial, more than half of baby boomers say they’ve allowed their adult children to move back home rent-free, and the vast majority (93%) admit they’ve provided some form of support to their adult children, like helping them pay for college tuition or a car.
Those are exactly the sort of situations Timothy Sheehan hopes to help parents avoid with Greenlight, the Atlanta, Georgia-based startup he cofounded in 2014. Greenlight provides a preloaded MasterCard debit card (issued by FDIC-insured Community Federal Savings Bank) for kids 13 and older that parents can manage from their smartphones, a simple idea that caught the attention of investors early on. Now, Sheehan’s brainchild is laying a runway for expansion.
Greenlight today announced that it’s raised $54 million in series B funding led by Drive Capital, with participation from JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and existing investors TTV Capital, Live Oak Bank, and Relay Ventures.
“We’re thrilled to partner with our Series B investors to bring Greenlight to millions of new families and help parents prepare their children for healthy financial futures,” said CEO Sheehan. “In the near future, I hope that this generation of kids grow up to spend wisely, learn the importance of saving and feel confident investing to build wealth over the long-term.”
The Greenlight experience starts not with the debit card, which every child receives when they and their parent open an account, but with the companion mobile app for Android and iOS. From it, kids can monitor their spending, set savings goals, request cash, and receive alerts when a guardian loads money from a funding source. They can’t spend money they don’t have, and account admins have full control over the categories of spending (e.g., stores, restaurants, websites) allowed.
Parents can transfer money to their child’s card for allowance or incidental expenses whenever they choose, and they can schedule and manage weekly or one-time rewards to incentivize kids to complete chores. Both they and their children can switch the debit card off from within the app whenever they choose, and view a log of every spending, saving, giving, and earning event up to the current day.
Greenlight boasts additional protections like a parent-controlled PIN number and ATM access controls that enable guardians to specify withdrawal limits. And it automatically blocks certain activities like wire transfers, money orders, lotteries, and cash back from purchases.
Future versions of the app will feature educational layers, Sheehan says, along with some form of investing functionality. He and investors like Wells Fargo’s C. Thomas Richardson believe those additions will be sufficient to keep Greenlight a step ahead of the competition, which includes teen debit card and bank app Current and mobile banking startup Step in addition to mobile banking apps like Chime, Monzo, Simple, and Revolut.
“At Wells Fargo, financial literacy and helping our clients succeed is a part of our core values,” said Richardson, head of strategic partnership investing at Wells Fargo. “Greenlight offers parents an opportunity to build that core competency of financial literacy in their child’s formative years, through its innovative, interactive and fully digitized product offering. We are impressed by Greenlight’s rapid growth, and we are excited to help fuel the next phase of its development.”
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