Any parent can tell you that if you want to teach a child how to manage money, you cannot just keep pulling out your wallet.
And two Michigan entrepreneurs figure one way to make some money is to teach parents how to stop picking up the entire tab.
"If you're going to buy me a milkshake, of course I'll have a milkshake," said Bob Masterson, 45, co-founder and president of FamilyMint, which started up in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Ditto for taking yet another trip through the drive-through this week -- or dishing out more dough for the latest version of a Pokemon game.
Masterson has nine children, eight boys and one girl. Jeff Eusebio, co-founder and CEO of FamilyMint, has five children, three boys and two girls.
Eusebio, 40, recalls that each weekend one of his sons loved to grab all the advertisements in the Sunday paper.
"By the end of the morning, he'd have something else he'd want to buy," Eusebio said.
Now Eusebio and Masterson are pitching a goal-setting, money-tracking online educational tool to credit unions, called FamilyMint. The motto on their business card says it all: "Helping Kids Appreciate Money."
Families can talk plenty about money -- and the conversation, according to many parents, too often involves "gimme this" or "gimme that."
For good measure, some children throw in the word "please."
But the high cost of college and everything else has more folks wondering what will happen to the kids if they don't somehow learn to stop spending.
"Parents are seeing how they're squeezed in today's economy," said Lon Bone, vice president of public relations and community involvement at Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Genisys Credit Union, which has $1.3 billion in assets and 125,000 members.
Many parents are worried about what kind of financial future their children will have if they don't learn how to better manage their money.
Genisys began offering its credit union members free access to a program called FamilyMint about six months ago. A few hundred families now participate.
"One of the things we try to do is teach young people how to save and use credit wisely," Bone said.
FamilyMint is being marketed as a "turnkey youth program" for credit unions.
Fifteen or so years ago, credit unions had to send representatives to the classroom or library if they were interested in promoting financial literacy, said Gregory Gurka, CEO of Washtenaw Federal Credit Union in Ypsilanti.
But Gurka is hoping that FamilyMint, launched last month through his credit union, will end up as a free, helpful online approach for the children of credit union members.
"Kids like computers. Kids like online interaction," he said. "You can get involved with their lives without having to be physically present with them."
Eusebio and Masterson are tapping into what could be a growing business for offering tools to parents to teach their kids about money.
One outfit, based in San Diego, even is called BillMyParents, which pitches a prepaid debit card that can shoot text alerts to parents immediately after a child spends money on that card somewhere.
"They don't remember where they spent the $50. They don't remember how they spent it," said Jim Collas, president of BillMyParents.
Collas said he saw text alerts that his son was buying gas one day -- and his son didn't have a car. He was buying gas for friends.
"Really what we're going to be pushing is the ability to monitor your teen," Collas said.
The FamilyMint online system sets up a virtual banking program -- where parents can easily add interest to savings, kids can create targeted goals for skateboards or big trips, and money can be tracked.
The program is not linked directly to a parent's checking or savings account, and it is not linked directly to a child's actual youth account at a credit union.
"It totally changes the conversation -- and when the conversation changes, expectations change," Eusebio said.
Eusebio noted that the program offers a matching program, say if a child agrees to save toward college and the parent agrees to match each dollar the child saves. If parents offer such deals, they can make it real by moving around money in real accounts at a later time.
A free version of the program exists at www.familymint.com .
Another version costs about $25 a year. The programs offered through credit unions are free to members of those institutions.
The fathers said they both often talked for years about how to get their kids to stop spending money -- and learn to save.
"If you don't have it electronically, it's too much of a pain," Eusebio noted. "The kids can see all their money in one spot."
"It's designed to be very flexible," Masterson said. "If you're just giving them cash, they never have that kind of accountability."