Teaching teens About Money - Forming Long-term Positive Habits

Teaching teens About Money - Forming Long-term Positive Habits

Parents – despite best efforts, the public school system is not sufficiently preparing your children for the real world. Sure, arithmetic, biology, and Spanish are emphasized in virtually every high school curriculum in America. But what about basic finance? As far as I know, a simple course in budgeting and financial concepts is not currently part of the program. This is unfortunate.

Since the task of teaching your children how to balance a checkbook (or, rather, what a checkbook IS) is your job, this post will offer a few tips on getting the ball rolling.

For most members of the millennial generation (those born between the 1980s and 2000s), accumulating assets is not a top priority. After experiencing the financial collapse of 2008, many millennials do not trust the banking system… and it’s hard to blame them. However, whether we like it or not, a bank account is a necessary tool for every (aspiring) adult. The first step, of course, is to ensure your teen has a bank account in his or her own name. Schedule a time for your child to sit down with a banker to learn how the account works: deposits, withdrawals, accumulating interest, et cetera. Depending on his or her age/responsibility level, you may consider linking that bank account with a debit card, which can become an important component of the next step.

Sit down with your child and help him or her develop a budget based on priorities and other goals. Some teens are looking ahead to be able to buy a car or finance a trip. Their savings for future needs or wants should be a part of their budget. Both the expenditure side of the budget and the revenue side should be negotiated to the point where everyone signs off on it.

You need to be able to track his or her spending effectively and efficiently. Some may prefer to do this the old-fashioned way with a journal, but some may prefer Excel or an online budgeting tool like Mint.com. Let them choose whatever tool they are most comfortable with.

Finally, and most importantly, help your teen understand the value of saving. One potential way to do this is by offering a “savings match,” similar to many retirement plans. Offer to match $0.50 on every $1 your teen saves over the course of a year. This not only demonstrates the value of savings, but also encourages a long-term view.

In sum, the onus of responsibility for providing financial education to your child falls solely on your shoulders as a parent. It is never too early to begin this process, but it is important to ensure your teen has mastered the basics before heading off to college.

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