Sue Scheff: Teens and Money

Debra Beck, an Author and Mentor to Teens, has a wonderful website and focus's on building your teens self esteem. Having self confidence can help your teen make better choices. Debra just posted a very timely Blog on Teens and Money - check it out!

It’s amazing to me how teens react to money differently. My oldest daughter didn’t like to spend her money or mine for that matter. She was always very picky about what she purchased to make sure that the money was well spent. My youngest on the other hand spent both of our money without a second thought, and sometimes on wasteful things.

I am noticing the same with my partners boys, one is very careful about his spending, and the other has the money spent in no time at all. What can we do as parents to assure that our teens have a certain amount of respect for money, no matter where it is coming from.
The first thing I suggest is starting at a young age. Be careful that you don’t give them everything they want, every new gadget that comes onto the market; computer, I Pod, cellular phone, new car and on and on. Set up a chore list and make them work for the toys they want. Also, be honest with yourself, I hear so many parents say “She needs a phone so I can get in touch with her”, please, how have parents stay in touch with their kids for all of these years without cell phones? Teens want the phone to call their friends and to be like all the other teens. That’s okay, but let them pay for the expense with their own earned money.

We don’t want our teens to feel like they are entitled. By giving them everything they want, without working for it, they feel superior. A perfect example of this is: when it comes time to drive and parents buy their teens really nice cars. I’m not saying you have to buy your teen a beater, but a modest car will do the trick. A used, economical car that is adequate and serves the purpose but doesn’t scream “Look at me, aren’t I special”.

We want to teach our kids to understand what money is all about, the importance. If we give them everything and they get into college and then get out in the world without us to pay for everything, for the first time, what do you think will happen? I have seen a lot of young adults go crazy, and get credit cards and spend like they are use to spending, not caring about who has to pay back the debt. They get used to having and therefore keep spending.

I think we need to talk to our children about money starting at a younger age, giving them an allowance for chores and letting them spend it the way they see fit. Then always talking to them as they get older about money. Talk to them about what you did to start making a living and the bills that you have and the responsibility you have. Talk to them about credit cards and paying for things up front, explain the difference.

I sat down with my daughters when they were 11 and 12-years-old and ask what they were going to be when they grew up, and where they wanted to live and what they wanted to have. My youngest daughter said she wanted to work at store, like Walmart, and my oldest wanted to be a Veterinarian. I showed them on paper, what each of them would make in the careers they picked and what they could afford to buy with there income. My youngest was very disappointed with the outcome of her paycheck.

Teens love to spend money and they don’t quite understand that the money bag isn’t bottomless. I remember my youngest daughter telling me to “Just write a check”, when she wanted something and I told her I couldn’t afford it. I asked her what she thought happened when I wrote a check, she had no idea.

As our children get older their spending habits get more expensive, their needs for things in general become more. It’s okay to have your teen participate in the expenses of their living habits, for a fact it’s more than okay, it’s a good thing. When they participate, they become more responsibly with their actions of spending money. When it’s their money they are less apt to spend money foolishly. They tend to spend our money a lot easier, there is no risk.

You want your teen to participate in their expenses, not cover them completely. When I was a teen, my friend was totally responsibly for all of her clothes, make-up, food, entertainment, everything. It was too much for her, so don’t go overboard. Building a responsible teen is one thing, you don’t want them to be neurotic. So, talk to your teens about money, give them chores or let them get a part-time job and earn their own money. Let them spend their money on what they want to spend it on, and still help them with necessities.

It’s our job to raise independent adults, the best way to do this is to teach them about responsibilities. Money is a huge part of this. It also gives us the opportunity to look into our own spending habits, and how we view money. Good luck, and have fun with your teen, helping them learn how to and not to spend money.

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