By Benjamin Temin
Welcome back for Part 4 of our series focusing on conversations about money with ourselves and people we love. In Part 1, we discussed the importance of self-reflection and knowledge of one’s own money habits and influences. In Part 2, we looked at building trust and cohesion around financial wellness with our partners through communication. In Part 3, we talked about speaking honestly to and engaging creatively with children – who are naturally very curious and impressionable – about money.
This time we are moving up the age ladder and talking about teens. Teenage years and adolescence are a critical stage in a young person’s development where they seek independence but still look to their parents and other role models for guidance and direction. With that perspective, here are a few tips on engaging teenagers to both learn healthy money habits and give them opportunities to exercise independence so they will be well-prepared for the adult decisions they will need to make not too far in the future:
- Get teenagers involved in conversations about money and spending. For parents, when appropriate, bring your teens to the decision-making process, like when you are deciding on a large purchase or considering how to finance a college education. Even if they are not ultimately making the decision, it can be a great teaching opportunity to show what options are available and what factors you are considering.
- Encourage teenagers to work. Taking on a part-time job is the best way for teens to learn how hard, but also how satisfying it is to earn money and gain confidence. They will have an opportunity to make independent decisions about their earnings and they may find that as hard as it is to earn, it is easy to spend. They should also be guided to make a budget and set goals for spending, saving, and giving.
- Connect teenagers to age-appropriate financial educational tools and resources. More and more high schools and other organizations offer classes or workshops in personal finance geared to high schoolers and college students. It is important to realize that although the values or principles may be the same, the way teens are using money and thinking about careers may be different than when you were their age, both because of technology and the changing economy. A few places to start may be the Youth Financial Education materials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mesila, and your local bank or credit union.
There is no doubt that being a teen or the parent of a teen has its challenges. Money and finances are good areas to engage in together to make sure they have the knowledge and confidence to become successful, financially-engaged adults.
In the final installment of our series, we will address talking with our older or aging loved ones about money. See you then!
Benjamin Temin is a Coordinator for Economic Sufficiency at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.