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If you have children, there's a good chance they may end up in college someday. And you might like to help pay for that college education. But are you financially prepared to help? Can you afford to make saving for college a priority right now?
While it's important for parents to set boundaries and expectation for how teens are to spend their money, it is also important to empower teens to make wise financial choices on their own.
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While math, reading, writing, history, and science are usually a given in school, your child is much less likely to be given much of a formal education on the subject of personal finance. That's why it's your responsibility to make sure they don't fall behind on money matters...
According to an article at Forbes, the average college graduate has four credit cards and $4,100 in credit card debt. This doesn't even take into consideration the thousands of dollars of student loan debt that most young adults face as they enter the workforce. However, with a basic financial education, your teen doesn't have to be a part of this sobering statistic. Here are six tips to help your teen learn to manage money:
How many times have you told your kids to "do as I say, not as I do"? The fact is, kids copy what they see more than what they hear, so the best way to teach them is to lead by example. Let them see you make your monthly budget, pay your bills and tell them why you decided against buying that $100 handbag that you really loved. Don't despair if your finances are in a mess; this is a prime learning opportunity for you and your child. Read a book or take a course in money management and learn together.
Allow teens to take on a part-time job such as babysitting or mowing grass to not only gain work experience, but earn some dough as well. If working isn't an option, have them find household tasks, above and beyond the chores you expect them to do, that they can do for money. CNN Money recommends giving an allowance, but teens tend to be more careful with the money that they earn.
Allow Them to Spend, Save and Give
Didn't you hate it when your parents told you that your birthday money was being put in your savings account "for college" at an age when you didn't even know what the SAT was? An article from Family Circle says that teens need to learn how to budget their money at an early age when making a mistake. "Hello, $75 blue jeans!" isn't nearly as big of a setback as maxing out a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit. Help them determine how much is appropriate to spend on their immediate wants, how much should be put aside for a long term goal like a car or college tuition, and how much they want to give to a charitable organization.
Most teens are tech savvy and will enjoy being able to watch their savings grow in their bank account. This will also help them develop the habit of watching for fraudulent use of their account. LifeLock says that more than eight million people were the victims of identity theft in 2011. Early detection is key in getting the mess cleaned up before it's too late.
Chances are, you've got a mortgage, car payment or student loan lurking around. While none of those are "bad debt," they are still debt and you're paying hundreds of dollars in interest each year. Take out your statements and let your teen see just how much of your monthly payment goes to the principle and how much goes to interest.
Whether it's clothes or video games, it pays to shop around and wait for a bargain. Explain to teens that stores have sales quite regularly and many times coupons are available to further decrease the price. Teach them to compare prices at different stores and online, and to consider buying the item second-hand through eBay, at a garage sale or consignment shop.
It's never too early to start teaching teens about money. Use these tips to guide you, but give your child the freedom to make mistakes now when he's 14, so that he doesn't repeat them when he's 24 and responsible for rent and a car payment while earning an entry-level salary.
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