Tips for Teaching Your Teenager About Managing Money and Personal Finance
Your teen might learn how to solve linear equations in high school math, but personal finance? Probably not.
That’s on your shoulders, and unless you’re a certified financial planner or another kind of financial pro, it probably seems pretty intimidating.
Where do you start? What lessons should you focus on? And how can you drive them home for your constantly distracted teenager?
Here are some tips for teaching your teenager how to manage money
1. Arm them with a budgeting app.
Knowing how to budget is the most basic personal finance tool there is — and it’s one that will set your child up for long-term financial success.
But don’t just sit down in front of a lengthy spreadsheet and bore your teen to tears. Instead, talk to them in their language (via their phone). Use budgeting apps like Mint, Wally, or Mvelopes to help them track what’s coming in versus what’s coming out, as well as set individual spending budgets and savings goals.
2. Give them a secured credit card.
Letting your teen have a credit card might sound like a scary thought, but it can actually be a good way to help them learn how to spend responsibly. It’s also crucial to building up their credit profile, which will impact their ability to get loans or even find rental properties down the line.
With a secured credit card, there’s a low-risk way to do it, too. You basically pre-load the card with a certain amount of money, and then that deposit acts as your child’s spending limit. Make sure they use their budgeting app to spend the money wisely.
3. Make them earn what they spend.
Teens aren’t too old to do chores or help around the house. In fact, the best way to instill a sense of financial responsibility in your child is to make them earn the money they spend (spending someone else’s money is way easier!)
Create a list of various chores and duties your child can choose from if there’s something they need money for. Make sure to assign each one a “salary” amount, too. This will encourage them to really dig into the math and choose their chores carefully.
Apps like FamZoo, Chore Check, and Go Henry are great options for managing these at-home jobs digitally.
4. Establish a long-term savings goal early.
Does your teen eventually want a car? To go to college? To study abroad? Talk about these goals early on, and establish what portion of the costs they’ll be responsible for. Maybe they need to split the cost of the car with you or pay for the airfare for the study abroad trip? Whatever it is, set the goal now, and give your teen a stake in making it happen.
Not only will this help encourage regular savings, but it will also give them a sense of pride and ownership in achieving those long-term goals. It won’t just be handed to them — but earned through hard work.
5. Give them a crash course in financial basics.
Your teen will need to know about credit, investing, budgeting, and just general economics if they’re going to be financially successful. Though books can be a good resource here, you’re better off making the lessons fun and interactive.
Luckily, there are tons of games and apps out there that can help. Here are just a few:
- Financial Football (general financial concepts)
- Chair the Fed (economic and monetary policy)
- The Stock Market Game (investing)
- Biz Kids (saving)
- Payback (saving for college)
- Stax (long-term investing)
- Night of the Living Debt (debt)
The Department of Education’s Financial Literacy for All website is also a good resource. There are various courses, guides, individual lessons, and more.
6. Step back.
Once you give them the tools, don’t micromanage your teen’s spending, saving, or budgeting strategies. Instead, sit back, and let them fail. The best lessons are ones learned first-hand, so let them run out of gas money or misbudget and have to skip that Saturday night movie with their friends.
When they’re older, financial mistakes will come with much bigger consequences. Now, they have a roof over their head and food on the table. It’s the perfect time to let them fall and get back up again.
7. Review their mistakes and help them course-correct.
Letting them make mistakes is one thing, but don’t leave them out to dry. Walk them through their errors, discuss what went wrong, and show them what they can do to prevent more mistakes in the future.
You should also go over their monthly bank and credit card statements with them. Help them understand the numbers, and talk about where they stand in terms of their savings goals. This will help them stay on track and motivated.
The bottom line
Teaching your teen about personal finance is incredibly important, but it’s no easy feat. Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there that can help. Need more? Check out our finance content on the blog.