9 Basic Money Skills Every Teen Should Learn

Teach your teen these basic money skills.
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Basic money skills could be one of the most important lessons you could ever teach your child. After all, mistakes with money could cost more than just dollars. Poor spending habits, combined with a lack of knowledge about money, can have serious emotional, social, and even legal consequences later in life.

A teen who goes deeply into debt during college, may not be able to take the job of his dreams because he can’t afford to do so.

Or a young adult who doesn’t know how to manage a budget may spend more than he makes each month.

Offer opportunities for your teen to make financial decisions—and mistakes—on his own. Hold frequent conversations about finances and provide plenty of hands-on learning opportunities to ensure your child understands these nine money basics:

1. How to Earn Money

If teens are always given money, they won’t understand what it takes to earn a paycheck. Rather than hand over money for your teen to go to the movies or buy new clothes whenever he wants, provide an allowance when he completes chores. Then, let him pay for some of the things he wants with his own cash.

2. How to Save Money

Teens also need to learn about how to save money. Help your child establish goals—like purchasing a new phone—and assist her in saving. Help her determine how much money she’ll need to save and establish a realistic saving plan with her.

3. How to Invest Money

Teens are often surprised to see the power of investments. One way to begin teaching about investments is by providing matching funds.

Similar to the way a company may offer a match for retirement savings, agree to match the money your teen is able to save during a specific time.

For example, match your teen’s savings toward new basketball sneakers over the next two months or provide a match toward the purchase of a car over the next year.

4. How to Create a Budget

Unless your teen knows how much to save, how much to spend, and how much is earned, he won’t be able to make wise financial decisions. Whether your teen has a job, or he earns an allowance, teach basic budgeting skills. Hold regular financial meetings and review your teen’s spending and help him decide how to divide up his money.

5. How Credit Works

Teens see adults swiping credit cards and they overhear discussions about mortgages or car loans, but most of them don’t really understand how credit works. Talk to your teen about the dangers of debt and the importance of paying off credit cards and other loans in a timely manner. 

6. How to Balance a Checking Account

Assist your teen in opening up a checking account. Teach your teen how to write checks and how to balance a checking account. If your teen is going to have a debit card, make sure he knows how to use it responsibly by tracking his spending habits.

7. How to Pay Bills

Show your teen some of your bills and discuss how you pay them. It’s important for teens to understand how to recognize when bills are due and how to develop a system to ensure they’re paid on time.

8. How to Manage Bank Accounts

Today’s digital world means many teens have never even really been inside a bank. Direct deposits and ATMs have largely done away with the need to speak with a bank teller.

Teach your teen about the difference between a checking account and savings account. Discuss how money can be transferred between accounts and discuss various types of fees banks charge. And make sure you talk about why you keep your money in the bank as opposed to keeping large amounts of cash in your home.

9. How to Spend Money Wisely

Learning how to spend money is an often overlooked financial skill, but teens need to know that spending their hard-earned money isn’t bad.

But many of them become so frightened about running out of money—because they don’t have a clear understanding of how to budget—that they don’t want to spend any.

Teach your teen that it’s okay to enjoy spending money, as long as the purchases are part of the budget. Then, as an adult, she'll feel as though she's in control of her money, rather than thinking her money runs her life.

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