Teaching Teens Financial Literacy Part 3

Over the past couple of weeks, I have written about the general lack of financial literacy in our youth and the almost complete absence of teaching these skills in our school systems. In the final article of this three-part series, I will continue the discussion of ideas you can use to help pass on these important lessons to the teenagers in your lives and look at some strategies that will help older teens.

By the time your teens turn 16 (and if you’ve followed my advice from the previous two articles), they should know that they will have to save and budget for the things that they want. While you may find it difficult, now is the time to increase their financial independence. This can be done in many different fashions but here are a few suggestions:

Consider giving your teen enough money to cover things like clothing for the year at the beginning of the school year. Make it very clear that they won’t be getting any more money and it will be up to them to budget appropriately. Most teens crave more independence and responsibility so use it to provide some valuable financial skills.

Instead of handing them cash, deposit money directly to their bank accounts and have them manage their funds via online banking and a credit card with a low limit. At the beginning, make sure to go over month end bank and credit card statements together and use these times to discuss how credit card interest is calculated and illustrate how quickly debt can compound.

If your teen has a part time job, encourage them to “pay themselves first” by putting away 10 per cent of each pay cheque into a long term investment account meant only for their retirement. While the urge to use this money for a car or even school will be high, starting them on the retirement savings path this early can have a profoundly positive impact on their future.

Bring your teen along to a meeting with your financial advisor who can open an investment account for them and help illustrate how powerful compounding can be over the 45+ years until they retire. A simple investment growth calculator, which can be found easily online, can illustrate how immense a small and regular contribution can grow to if given enough time.

Another very worthwhile exercise is to have your teen create a hypothetical budget for leaving home. They should put together a list of how much they would need for rent, vehicles, utilities, food, entertainment and other expenses. Once it’s complete, provide them with a sample paycheque for an entry level job, net of taxes, CPP and other deductions of course.

Now have your teen start reconciling their expenses by trimming enough out of their budget to balance out. It can be a great benefit for older teens to perform this “dress rehearsal” and you have all the resources at home to put the budget together. You can use your existing monthly bills to help illustrate what their expenses might look like.

Attempting to teach financial literacy is an intimidating and often overwhelming project but if you don’t do it, who will? It is never too early to start and if you don’t feel comfortable or capable, consider enlisting some help from a family member, friend and/or your own financial planner.

Saving properly and spending wisely are not the dominant cultural values in North America these days. As a parent, you will be going against the grain when you attempt to pass on some worthwhile lessons and values. But, with some honest discussion and realistic goal setting, hopefully you can help your own teens buck the trend and move in the right direction to achieve their own dreams.

For more information, a number of excellent resources can be found at: www.moneyandyouth.com<www.moneyandyouth.com>

And if you missed part one or two of this three part series, feel free to email me for copies!