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Local man creates money-management website for kids

Ross Almlie of Moorhead created BreadVault, a website to help parents manage their children's allowance and teach them about personal finance. He hopes to launch the site early next year. Sherri Richards / The Forum

MOORHEAD - Ross Almlie had a well-thought-out system to teach his children about money.

Five envelopes held their allowance, chore and gift money, dividing the dollars into fun money, educational expenses, charitable giving, and long- and short-term savings.

It was great, in theory, said Almlie, who lives in Moorhead. But he was always in arrears, not having enough dollar bills in his wallet to fill the envelopes. When he was caught up, there'd be $200 just sitting in a cupboard.

"The only envelope the kids engaged in was the fun envelope," said Almlie, a financial adviser for TCI in West Fargo.

Frustrated that his 9- and 6-year-olds were spending all their time playing on the computer or with his phone instead of learning about personal finance, Almlie realized the envelope system was the right teaching tool but the wrong technology.

Almlie believes kids learn better through interaction, and have longer attention spans online.

"What if we merge the two worlds together?" he asked.

That's how Almlie concocted, a money-management website for ages 5 to 18.

Almlie is revealing the site to local investors and will soon pitch it to potential national financial partners in New York City and Silicon Valley. He's hoping the site will launch the first quarter of 2012.

BreadVault was built by Almlie's in-laws, Web engineers in Seattle. The site is designed to teach kids how to set savings goals, spend wisely, invest and give, while keeping parents in control of all transactions and allowing them to easily monitor their activity.

It uses real cash flow, allowing parents to transfer allowance money into their child's BreadVault account and purchase stocks through an associated brokerage account.

Together, parents and kids decide how the money will be divvied up among three categories: Fresh Dough (spending), Rising Dough (saving) and Dough Nation (giving).

Kids can set goals for the items they want to buy with their Fresh Dough, research stocks with a step-by-step worksheet, and browse charities.

Kids earn points by meeting their savings, spending and giving goals, buying stocks, and participating in educational activities on the site.

These "game bucks" go toward building a virtual amusement park on the site - a fun activity akin to the Facebook game Farmville. They also build up to a real-world reward: a family activity decided by the parent, such as going to a baseball game.

"Every angle of the site is trying to teach delayed gratification and the value of that," Almlie said.

Almlie suspects he'll see a call for BreadVault 2.0 - a version for adults.

Eva Monsen, the site's software engineer and Almlie's sister-in-law, described the site as an educational tool, but added that the real flow of money makes it different.

"I've worked on a few other sites that teach kids how to spend their allowance," she said. "But this site acts as a real bank account. We haven't found anything else out there that does that."

Parents have access to the money through a debit card attached to the BreadVault account. Parents can withdraw money at an ATM to give to the child, make a debit card purchase for the child, or purchase items through a retail component on the site.

There will be free and subscription versions of BreadVault, Almlie said.

Bryce Niemiller, a friend of Almlie's who lives in West Fargo, said he plans to get a subscription to the site as soon as it launches.

"If my kids get a gift of money from grandma and grandpa, it just kind of disappears. They spend it all or we deposit it. They don't have any connection to it," Niemiller said.

He said his kids spend hours playing "silly games" like Moshi Monsters. He can imagine his family logging in, interacting with their money and watching it grow.

"I think it will be a lot of fun and educational," Niemiller said.


For more information, go to:

Here is the promotional video Almlie made:

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556