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Teaching Your Teen about Money
Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs plenty of advice from you. With more money to spend and more opportunities to spend it, your teen can easily get into financial trouble. So before money burns a hole in your child's pocket, teach him or her a few financial lessons. With your help, your teen will soon develop the self-confidence and skills he or she needs to successfully manage money in the real world.
Teens often have more expenses than younger children, and your child may be coming to you for money more often. But with you holding the purse strings, your teen may have difficulty making independent financial decisions.
One solution? Encourage your teen to get a part-time job that will enable him or her to earn money for expenses. Here are some things you might want to discuss with your teen when he or she begins working:
A teen who is too young to get a job outside the home can make extra cash by babysitting or doing odd jobs for you, neighbors, or relatives. This money can supplement any allowance you choose to hand out, enabling your young teen to get a taste of financial independence.
Developing a written spending plan or budget can help your teen learn to be accountable for his or her finances. Your ultimate goal is to teach your teen how to achieve a balance between money coming in and money going out. To develop a spending plan, have your teen start by listing out all sources of regular income (e.g., an allowance or earnings from a part-time job). Next, have your teen brainstorm a list of regular expenses (don't include anything you normally pay for). Finally, subtract your teen's expenses from his or her income. If the result shows that your teen won't have enough income to meet his or her expenses, you'll need to help your teen come up with a plan for making up the shortfall.
Here are some ways you can help your teen learn about budgeting:
As a youngster, your child saved up for a short-term goal such as buying a favorite toy. But now that your child is a teen, he or she is ready to focus on saving for larger goals such as a new computer or a car and longer-term goals such as college. Here are some ways you can encourage your teen to save for the future:
You can take some comfort in the fact that credit card companies require an adult to cosign a credit card agreement before they will issue a card to someone under the age of 21 (unless that person can prove that he or she has the financial resources to repay the credit card debt), but you can't ignore the credit card issue altogether. Many teens today use credit cards, and it probably won't be long until your teen asks for one too.
If you decide to cosign a credit card application for your teen, ask the credit card company to assign a low credit limit (e.g., $300). This can help your child learn to manage credit without getting into serious debt.
Here are some things to discuss with your teen before he or she uses a credit card:
If putting a credit card in your teen's hands is a scary thought, you may want to start off with a prepaid spending card. A prepaid spending card looks like a credit card, but works more like a prepaid phone card. You load the card with the dollar amount you choose and your teen can generally use it anywhere a credit card is accepted. Your teen's purchases are deducted from the card balance, and you can transfer more money to the card if necessary. Although there may be some fees associated with the card, no interest or debt accrues.
One thing you may especially like about prepaid spending cards is that they allow your teen to gradually get the hang of using credit responsibly. Because you can access account information online or over the phone, you can monitor your teen's spending habits, then sit down and talk with your teen about money management issues.