Your high school graduate (aka teenager) likely needs a lot of things: Money, clean laundry, endless supplies of snacks, money and….financial know-how?
Whether they’re heading off to college or into the workforce, many grads enter the all-new world of freedom sharing one common pitfall: They lack an understanding of financial responsibility.
The lessons your teenager learns about money today will put them on the right path to financial independence tomorrow. Here are a few ways to help them along.
1. Make them earn it
Nothing quite drives a money lesson home like allowing children to see the required work (and rewards) for themselves. Whether your son/daughter was employed by the age of 16, or has yet to land a job, the time is now to plant the seeds for future money management skills.
Studies show that children who work through college come out ahead in interpersonal relationships as well as landing a post-college career.1 They have developed budgeting skills, have found a way to balance a full schedule, and likely have capitalized on networking opportunities by building relationships for solid future references.
Although on-campus jobs may not pay well, there are jobs available that offer top dollar rates as well as the flexibility that college students need. After the sticker shock of fraternity dues hit too close to home, one UCLA Dad compiled this list of The Best Jobs for College Students, deciding the extent of his generosity ended with covering tuition, housing, and books.
2. Teach them not to burn it
Once your child has an understanding of the value of money (including the work it takes to earn it) it’s time to teach them where to put it.
There are several important things a high school graduate can do to increase their financial aptitude:
- Create a budget: Apps like Mint (the self-proclaimed nagging mother equivalent) will measure inflows and outflows, and even alerts them when they’ve blown through the take-out budget.
- Set up a savings account: Once budgeting is in place, they will need to set up savings so that excess cash doesn’t vanish in impulse buys. Find a bank whether on their college campus or close to home that has free checking and savings accounts for students, including convenient fee-free ATMs. Have them start directing their excess cash into a savings account to watch it grow over time.
- Get a credit card: Credit cards are a great teacher of discipline, and college is a great time to start establishing credit. Pre-paid cards or secured line cards with restricted access are great ways to help introduce how credit cards work to your young adult. It pays to know your options, and to put some protection around your student until they have the necessary tools to prevent their newfound freedom from causing a costly lesson learned.
- Shop smart
Money saved is money that can be spent to most teenagers. Teach your student to bargain shop for items, in particular college expenses that put a dent in the budget- namely textbooks.
Sites like Chegg and Amazon Student allow college students to rent and buy textbooks at a deep discount, as well as sell used textbooks for money.
Willing to offer your child a little help to get started with saving? Have them set aside about $5 a week to savings and reward them with a ‘bonus’ if they stay on or under their set budget: “I will help pay for your Spring Break trip if you are under budget by $100/month and put $5/week into your savings account.”
Younger savers have a tremendous advantage over those who start post-graduation: time. Many high schools don’t teach personal finance, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. Your child is capable of working, of saving, and of investing to secure their financial future. And you can equip them with the knowledge and tools to do it.