Ah! The teenage years! A time full of drama, angst, victories, disappointments, first loves, first heartbreaks and everything in between! But between the endless hours of sleeping and the bottomless-stomach-style eating is a growing child still ready to learn some of life’s most important lessons. One of those important lessons is the art of financial responsibility. And yes, I called financial responsibility “art”. Mainly because, while some of us have adopted a classic style and others a more abstract version, way too many of us are still making a big finger-paint sloppy mess!
So how exactly can we teach a teenager how to manage finances, let alone in a responsible way? I mean, at the moment just getting them to make their own bed is a huge feat! But don’t despair, we are here to help with some easy-to-follow, simple ways to encourage healthy money habits. These tips are so simple that even a teenager won’t be able to complain too much!
Studies have found that parents that are transparent with their children about money tend to have children that are more financially savvy. This means that exposing your children to the household budget, expenses, income, and debt can have a positive impact on their future. Oftentimes, we prefer to keep our financial lives, especially the negative aspects, private. But engaging in transparent discussions can really help your child understand what to do and what not to do in similar situations. But, be careful. Children are way more aware than we think. It is important to always be honest and to make sure to practice what you preach.
It is also very important to keep a healthy attitude towards money. We might not always have the amount of money that we wish or need and we may sometimes get discouraged, but the more positive we remain, even during the hard times, the more our children will learn by our example.
Another helpful tip is to be careful of lectures. No child, least of all a teenager, enjoys being lectured. It is better to turn these lessons into small, easily digestible snippets of conversation rather than one long lesson in finance. Perhaps the next time you are sitting down to pay bills, you invite your child to come help. And then another time, you take him or her out for lunch and discuss budgets. The important thing is to make these conversations fun and interesting, not heavy and long.
Even before your teenager gets a part-time job, a good first step is to set up a budget. You can work with the projected amount of income and decide on the expenses together. For example, if your teenager is 16 and is ready to get his driver’s license, perhaps having him pay for his own insurance or contribute towards gas and the upkeep of the car is an easy way to learn about bills.
If your teenager already has a job, perhaps introducing him or her to the 50-40-10 method would help teach about saving and giving back. The idea of the 50-40-10 methodology is that 50% of income is for spending, 40% is for savings, and 10% goes to a charity of your choice. You can alter these percentages to fit your personal household situation and values but the principle remains the same.
Even if your teenager does not yet have a part-time job, you can always opt to start providing your child with a weekly allowance. Statistics prove that teaching your children that money is earned, either by establishing weekly chores to do around the house or perhaps by suggesting different one-time jobs that you require some help with such as painting the house or washing the car. But the important aspect is that your child learn, as early as possible, the idea of budgeting and how money is earned.
Another great tip when it comes to budgeting is to involve your child in your family budget. Let them see what you earn, what goes towards bills, and what is saved per paycheck. It is a great way for your teen to understand the key to financial responsibility lies in the creation and adherence to a proper budget.
If you need some help on ways to create a budget, check out: How To Create A Budget To Save Money.
Investing in a long-term plan is so vital at the early stages of money-making. Think about how much an early investment in the teenage years comes to over time when you factor in compounding interest! Obviously, most teenagers will eye-roll at the prospect of “saving for retirement” since it is still a lifetime away (literally!), however getting into good habits now sets them up on the right foot for the future.
If you follow the 50-40-10 plan (or an alternative of these percentages), it doesn’t necessarily mean that 40% of the child’s income should go towards his or her retirement. It would be great if it did but, more often than not, teenagers are also looking to save up for some other major expenses (like a first car! YIKES!). So perhaps that 40% that was set aside for savings can be further broken down into two pie pieces: one for the long-term goal and another for the short-term savings. Learning to save for a big expense like a car is a great lesson in the value of money. It also teaches financial restraint and sacrifice (I won’t go to the movies today so that I can save for that car I want).
As many of us adults have unfortunately learned the hard way, learning to manage credit is one of life’s most difficult financial lessons. All too often, I see parents that avoid the topic of credit because it feels hypocritical to teach credit responsibility to a child if we, the parent, are still struggling to get our own debt and credit under control.
According to statistics, the majority of Canadians will likely make a major credit blunder before the age of 30. It is great that companies such as iCASH.ca are there to help when the going gets tough but teaching your child to avoid certain mistakes is a life lesson that we all could have appreciated learning from our parents. Check out 3 Common Financial Woes and How to Avoid Them.
One way to teach your child about credit is, when your teenager asks to borrow some money (which they WILL!), charge them interest until they pay it back. Example, if they ask to borrow $20 until next payday, agree to lend it to them but that they will need to pay back $22. It is an easy way to start understanding the value of credit and how interest is accumulated.
The teenager years are full of wonder and learning and growth. They are so close to becoming adults and are eager to test out their own independence. It is important, as parents, to equip them with as much knowledge as we possibly can so that they may hit the ground running and avoid as many bumps in the road as possible. Before you know it, your teen will be off to college and then on their own in the world. The sooner they understand the dos and don’ts, especially in relation to money and finance, the better the foundation they will have for the real world!