Teens Will Not Learn Good Money Practice if we do not Teach Them

Teens and Money- this combination could be a recipe for disaster or an opportunity for some great life lessons. As parents, it is crucial that we provide our kids with some basic financial lessons. When I think about the fact that my son will be out in the world as an adult in just a few short years, I start to realize how many things I have NOT specifically taught him when it comes to finances- eek!

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We recently had a great experience teaching our 14 year old son about money. I would love to say this was a well planned out life lesson, but in reality, it just kind of happened.

In the fall, the 8th grade students are told about a week long school sponsored trip to the East Coast that happens at the end of the school year. It sounds like an amazing trip that is sure to be both educational and fun. It also happens to cost about $1,200.

While we could have just written a check and been done with it, we decided that it would be good for Cooper to help pay for the trip. We said that we would match whatever money he earned.

He found a couple babysitting jobs in the neighborhood, sold some candy bars, and collected some pop cans. He quickly realized that raising money in that way was going to take a LONG time. Thankfully, Grandpa came to the rescue.

The two of them came up with the idea of making something to sell. My dad is a retired shop teacher, so woodworking seemed to be the most logical choice. They settled on Yardzee sets (large wooden dice in a bucket- basically an oversized Yahtzee set). I put it out on facebook thinking they might be able to sell 10 sets. Fast forward a few months, and they have now made almost 100 sets!

He had to work really hard to manage his time well- between school, sports, social events, and Yardzee, he didn’t have much free time. And while he still cringes a little when he hears the word “Yardzee,” he was able to pay for his entire East Coast trip plus earn some extra spending money. He worked hard and is now able to see the payoff for his hard work.

I realized just how valuable this lesson was when we recently had to discuss another big expense – playing on the travel water polo team this summer. (Be prepared: teenagers are expensive!)

My husband asked him how much he thought he should contribute toward the cost (I think both of us were expecting him to say nothing or a very small amount). Cooper immediately said, “I think I should pay for half of it.” Mind. Blown.

So what are some smaller ways to help teach your teenager about money? Here are a few suggestions:

3 Ideas for Teaching Teens About Money

1 – Show Them Your Family Budget

Not too long ago, our kids asked us how much money we make at our jobs. When they heard the amount, they were amazed (side note- we are both public school employees with pretty modest salaries). It was the perfect opportunity to talk about how much money we spend for things like the mortgage, insurance, car payments, gas, and groceries.

It’s important for kids to understand that money doesn’t just magically land in your lap and that you have to pay for your needs before your wants. I

have heard of parents actually having their teen manage the family’s money for a short period of time, but I am not quite ready to take that leap!

2 – Set up a Bank Account (and Make Sure They Actually Save Some Money!)

All kids should have a savings account at the bank. That may seem “old school,” but it’s important for them to have a place to save for long term. Any time our kids get money, we have them put a little bit in the bank. We have determined that account is for things like a car or college (not a new toy). Since it’s out of sight, it’s not a temptation.

3 – Make Sure They Have the Opportunity to Work for Money

People have different opinions about whether kids should be paid for chores at home. When my kids were younger, we had a weekly allowance system. Personally I think it was a good introduction to the concept of having a job, earning money, and saving for things they wanted to buy.

But I certainly do not pay my kids for every little thing they do. Everyone in our house is expected to help out every day. Sometimes I pay them for extra work. Regardless of your stance on the matter, it’s important that your kids have the experience of working hard and earning something in return. Having a part time job is a great experience for teens.

For ideas on teaching younger kids about money and information about kids’ savings account options available through local banks, check out this past grkids article I wrote: Teaching Kids About Money.

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