Most parents have learned things about money they wish they had known at a younger age. But when it comes to broaching the topic with their own teenagers, about a third would rather talk to them about smoking, drugs and bullying than money. Parents can take the angst out of teaching money management by working it into everyday routines.
"Your kids are most likely interested in money and having more of it, but they may not know where to start," says Susan Ehrlich, president of financial services for H&R Block. "Teaching money skills before they graduate will help them make smart choices and learn from their financial missteps now, so they're better prepared when they're on their own."
H&R Block provides free financial education for teens through H&R Block Dollars & Sense, which offers these tips:
- Encourage learning by earning. You may or may not want your teen to hold down a job while in high school, but you can instill the concept of earning by encouraging occasional paying projects, such as babysitting or mowing lawns.
- Practice makes perfect. Ask your teen to manage a portion of the family budget, such as writing the weekly menu and grocery list to fit your budget or keeping track of eating-out expenses every month.
- Save now, spend later. Open a savings account for your teen to plan for future purchases. If you're able, offer to match a portion of their savings to encourage the behavior. This can help convey the difference between needs and wants. Verbalize your own wants for something the entire family can save for and enjoy together, then share your progress toward the goal.
- Set some limits. If your teen has a credit card, set a realistic credit limit so the balance can be paid in full each month. Your teen will also see the impact of interest rates and annual fees.
- Be a good financial role model. Pay your own bills on time and ask your teen to be part of the process. Talk to your teen about the importance of a good credit score and how to maintain it - for example, paying your bills on time accounts for 35 percent of your score. Help them understand lower credit scores mean higher interest that could cost thousands of unnecessary dollars.
- Family Features/H&R Block Dollars & Sense