It’s ironic that the time of your children’s lives that they need the most direction is the time they are least likely to listen to their parents. With the rise of technology and the convenience that comes with it, especially in the last decade, there is a noticeable shift in attitudes toward money and personal responsibility. Unfortunately, that makes teaching your teens about money a difficult task; one which many parents avoid with the hope that someone else will do it. But the sad reality is that no one else will. Moreover, if parents do not make the effort to teach their kids about financial responsibility during this most impressionable time, their kids may pay for it the rest of their lives. Here are some things you can do to educate your teens about financial responsibility.
1. Develop a budget
Teaching your kids to budget should be fairly simple since they most likely don’t have a lot of money. It may even seem pointless. But at this stage in their lives, it’s more about establishing habits that have a lifelong impact than it is about the numbers. Teach them to record income sources and expenses. Help them understand the concept of cutting expenses to increase savings. More importantly, talk to them about goals to save for if they have a surplus. Having a goal for something like college or even a new gadget can help them learn to establish priorities and forego instant gratification for a greater goal.
2. Teach them how to be price-conscious
Teenagers are used to their parents paying for everything so they may not understand why you insist on buying “gross” generic brand snacks or making enough for leftovers. Next time you pay bills or go grocery shopping, help your teens have an eye-opening experience by showing them how much it all costs, and what the cost differences are on products they like to have. Talk to them about your budget and help them understand the impact it has to buy more expensive name brands over the long run. Talk to them about your financial goals — goals they will need to consider when they are older.
3. Open a checking account
Opening a checking account and signing up for online banking will give your teens an opportunity to learn how to keep track of their accounts. Help them review their statement each month to get them in the habit of keeping an eye on the balance. With a checking account, there is the option to get a debit card. Having a debit card is a good precursor for getting a credit card. It can instill the idea that they can only purchase that for which they already have money.
4. Encourage them to work
Nothing helps a teenager better to learn the value of money than learning to work for it. However, it is important for parents to teach their children the value of hard work. Hopefully, this is something you have been teaching them all along by having them help around the house and doing service with them. Teach them that more opportunities open up to them when they work hard. Tell them stories of experiences you have had with this. Inspire them to look beyond the money and view their job as an opportunity to develop skills that will help them secure better jobs at college and after graduation.
5. Teach them the difference between wants and needs
When I was a teenager, my parents rarely gave me money for things without expecting me to work to pay it back. This is something I resented at the time, but looking back on it now I am grateful for it. It often made me reconsider doing certain things with friends when I knew I had to pay for it myself. Also, it helped me prioritize what I felt I needed and what I merely wanted. It also had an added bonus of teaching me to be financially self-reliant, so that when I went to college and beyond, I worked to pay tuition, housing, etc. rather than expecting my parents to help (which I’m sure my parents were happy about). Does that mean it’s wrong to help your children pay for things like that? No, but it’s important to be careful lest it create unintended expectations on their part.
Is it possible to teach your teens financial responsibility? Yes, but it requires discipline and teaching moments on your part to make it happen.
Ben lives with his wife, Kilee, and dog, Paisley, in Arkansas. He has a passion for personal finance, sports, and learning. Ben recently started a blog at www.wealthgospel.com where you can find more of his opinions on personal finance. His life goals are to write about personal finance all day and start a non-profit organization to help others become self-reliant and to find their true potential. On any given day, you could find him eating homemade salsa, picking blackberries, or staying up until 3 a.m. to finish a book.