As a mom of five children from 14 – 32, I have had to teach about finance several times. Each time is a bit different – as times change, so does financial lessons. Years ago lessons were heavily focused on checkbooks and balancing them. Nowadays there really is almost never a need to write a check so that skill is a bit antiquated – still good to know in order to understand how financial transactions work but less important for day to day activities.
Some schools have finance classes in high school but with all of the other requirements, most schools don’t have the ability to concentrate on this important life skill. Have you noticed they don’t even teach cursive anymore? So many skills have fallen by the wayside in order to make room for other activities.
So what does a teen need to know nowadays?
As a teenager credit cards can seem like striking gold. Seriously, what could be better than pulling out a card and buying something on the promise to pay it later. But those of us that are older and have been there, know that it is all too easy to lose track of how much you owe and/or how quickly it can add up and become unmanageable. There are some credit card simulators online to help you really teach your teens just how much some of that debt is going to cost them. Charging up $3,000 may not seem like much but perhaps by the time they finish paying it off via minimum payments, they will have paid $4,750. They may be willing to entertain the idea of spending $3,000 but hadn’t even considered spending $4,750. Yes, the shock of the final cost needs to be a part of financial instruction! It is a harsh reality.
TheMint.Org has online learning modules specifically for teens. Topics include: Earning, Saving, Spending, Owing, Tracking, Giving, Investing and Safeguarding. So many lessons at your fingertips – literally all the topics that you would expect and/or hope a high school curriculum would cover. The learning strategies include games challenges, and calculators making it really easy to learn.
- Teach your children how to create a budget and stick with it. It is also extremely important to teach them WHY it is so important to live with a budget. I am not even sure if my oldest three children knew I had a budget and lived by it. Times have changed though and as adults we have increasing responsibilities. Our youngest two children are heavily involved in my budgeting and just what that means. They interpret it a little differently though – I often overhear them saying we have no money. Well it isn’t that we have no money exactly, it is rather that spending money on whatever they want is not exactly a priority or in my budget. There is a big difference – one that I am still working on teaching them.
- How much to put into savings? There is never a time our children are given or earn money that some doesn’t go to savings. They also watch me and how I split up my paycheck. It is very easy to skip putting money in savings but the lesson needs to show the safety and security of having money in savings.
- Help teach them about different types of bank accounts. Honestly this one is a tough one – as times have changed so has the types of bank accounts etc… I have online savings, checking, regular banking establishments etc…There are so many banking options that recently when I took my kids to the bank to open yet another savings account, we were handing a pamphlet with a huge list of different account designs. Really? This will take some time.
- How to tell the difference between wants and needs can be tough. For Christmas my kids know we follow the 4 Christmas Gifts Challenge – They get one thing they want, one they need, one to wear, one to read… Well my son says, ” I want a Nintendo Switch Lite, but I need a BlueRay player…” guess we still have a ways to go. I give him credit for trying though.
- Help them build their credit and develop the skills to know what it takes to build their credit and teach them why good credit is so valuable.