It’s really important for your teenager to be financially fluent before they become an adult. No doubt you already know this, and you’re taking steps to make sure it happens.
Here are some of the things parents of my clients have done with their teenagers that I think were very well done:
1) Incentivize savings. I’ve worked with some teenagers whose parents make it really worthwhile for them to develop the saving muscle. Either they match their savings, or they reward it in some other way. The wonderful thing about this is parents and their teens are collaborating to set a goal. They then make a plan on how to reach the goal. The parents help their adolescents through the whole process of reaching the savings goal.
2) Consider the value of things carefully. I have a 17 year old boy I’ve been working with for several months. He has come very, very far in meeting his goals. One area he wanted to work on was a sense of entitlement (It already took some maturity for him to recognize this was a challenge for him). He talked this through with his parents. This was about the time he was applying to colleges. His parents spent a lot of time helping him discern whether an out-of-state school offered enough extra benefit to justify the cost. They helped him search out which university would best prepare him for the career he says he wants. Ultimately he has decided to attend a school that is less prestigious by name, but is the very best value for his situation. He said he has learned an incredible amount about financial responsibility through this process.
3) Requiring teens to pay for wants. It’s very easy to assume everything your adolescent wants is a need. It feels that way to them. They often believe they need things that in truth, they don’t. One girl I work with was convinced she needed a car. Instead of buying her one, her mom told her to start saving her money. After realizing how expensive cars are when they aren’t purchased by mom or dad, this girl became much more content with driving mom’s extra beat up truck. She has saved her money for a car, but she is now trying to buy one that gets good gas mileage and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance instead of what looks cool. She has gone from being someone who didn’t know where her money went to being pretty careful with it. She has also learned how to work, which brings us to number four.
4) Don’t be afraid of your teenager working. Parents who encourage, and sometimes require, their adolescents to have a job have seen tremendous benefits. Aside from the increase in self-esteem that occurs, teens who work tend to get into less trouble, are more responsible with their money, and have a greater appreciation for their parents. The teenagers I’ve worked with in counseling who have started working stopped asking their parents for money, felt really proud of being able to pay for things themselves, and have quickly learned to discern between needs and wants.
There are a lot of other ways to teach your teenage children how to be financially responsible. It’s helpful to sit down and teach them to budget, teach them to give, and have them learn the basics of investing. The four tips I shared in this blog post are the ones I’ve seen parents use that seem easiest to implement, and have a huge, immediate impact. All of these things require a teen to be patient before they can have what they want. However, that’s one of the most essential skills to leading a successful life.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT