If you have teenagers, you have plenty to worry about, I understand. I’ve been there. As you try to have your last and lasting influence on them as they race toward adulthood, you’re worrying about sex, drugs, alcohol, college and so much more. Add money to the list.
Here are some tips to help you teach your teens to be financially responsible adults
Get a job
Teens have plenty to do these days, with school, sports, music lessons and all the rest. It may seem like a terrible use of time to have your teens work, too, but a job may provide some of the most valuable education they’ll get before they leave home. Having their own money — money you didn’t give them — is good for both parents and their teens for helping them to establish independence.
Open a checking account
You may need to cosign, but if your teens don’t have a checking account by age 16, help them get the account opened so they understand how it works. Take time to explain basic concepts like how to keep the register current, how it takes time for checks to clear so money may already be gone, and how to reconcile bank statements at the end of the month.
Open a separate savings account
Help your teens understand how to save by helping them to open an account and put money aside for things they want to buy — this may require you to break your pattern of buying whatever they need.
Get a credit card
If your teens learn to manage a checking account successfully, opening a credit card account with a small limit and likely with a parent as a cosigner is a logical next step. It may both serve to give you comfort that your teens have some emergency money with them at all times and that they are learning to be responsible. It is important for you to monitor the usage, both to see what your teens are buying and, most importantly, to make sure they are paying the bill in full each month. Your goal is to teach your kids to be responsible adults — not to help them establish credit. Watch closely to ensure they don’t run up bills they can’t afford.
Prepare for college
Encourage your teens to plan and prepare financially for college. Most teens are going to be responsible for some costs in college, even if it is just the money for socializing. Help them to set aside some cash and plan ways to earn money either during the summer or during the school year once they leave home.
By working with your teens to open and operate bank and credit accounts and to work a part-time job will help them as much as anything else you can do to become productive adults. Once they go away to college, your opportunity to coach and train will be largely gone, but you’ll still be their primary resource for money. Make sure they understand how money works before they’re gone.