They may be just a handful of years away from adulthood, but many teens have no clue about seemingly simple money matters. If you parent, chances are you’re going to have to take on the task of helping teens learn about money.
A recent global study, which included teens in the United States, found that about 25 percent of 15-year-olds struggle to make decisions about everyday spending and only 10 percent understand income tax and other more complex issues, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic group.
It’s no surprise that U.S. students have trouble. Only a third of states require students take a personal finance class to graduate, according to the Council for Economic Education, a nonprofit.
That means it’s up to parents to take the reins when it comes to helping teens learn about money and teaching personal finance lessons that will stick with them for life. And, for many, that instruction starts with the most important lesson: Always live below your means. And, to do that, you’ll need to create a budget and stick to it.
Three tips for helping teens learn about money
Start simple. Talk about the big three.
The big three would be, of course, your teen’s income, their needs and their wants. Have teens answer the following questions:
How much do you make each month from jobs, allowance, birthday money and any other income sources?
- Do you have any required or fixed expenses each month? Do they pay for their smartphone plan? Do they cover gas when they take the car out? Or, is there a car payment?
- What discretionary expenses do they have each month? When they go out with friends, who pays for the movie tickets or the dinner out, for instance? How much do they want to spend on clothes beyond what they get from you?
Tally up all of the numbers to ensure they aren’t already spending more than they can afford. If they are, it’s time to make some adjustments.
Don’t just focus on now … get them thinking about later.
Helping teens learn about money is an important task. While teens may be focused almost exclusively on what they want now, it’s a parent’s job to remind them that this is just the beginning for them.
As they create their budget, require them to build in savings into their plan. That can include short-term savings goals for a new pair of boots or a summer camp that’s too expensive for the family budget. It also includes long-term goals, including college tuition — or even just pizza in the dorm.
An online savings calculator can help them map out how long it will take them to reach a specific goal.
Find tools that will make budgeting fun.
Or, rather, as fun as it can possibly be.
Some teens may enjoy plotting out their budgets with paper and pen. You can download a budget worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission.
You could make it a game. The blogger at DesignMom.com came up with a budget game for her own teens.
And many teens likely will be glad to know that there’s an app for all of this too. These six free personal finance apps can make managing money easy.
Whatever you do, don’t hold off on the budget talk with your teens. Setting them up now with healthy spending habits could set them up for life.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today