Parenting is not for wimps! I remind myself of this truth almost every other day while parenting my four children (they’re now 26, 24, 20 and 19).
A huge part of our parenting responsibility lies in what we teach our children. I’m a firm believer in being intentional about teaching, especially about what we teach our kids. Teens have a lot on their plate nowadays. When I go speak in high schools and colleges, I’m noticing more and more how many young adults simply aren’t ready for “real world” living, especially when it comes to money.
Read more: Clark’s tips for teaching kids about money
Many don’t know how money works, how to make it, save it, spend it, or invest it. Their parents haven’t been intentional about supporting them in becoming financially healthy. I don’t want that to happen to you so I want you to use this checklist.
Here are 5 basic money skills all parents should teach their teenager
1) How to get a job: Money doesn’t grow on trees! As a parent you’ve probably said it (or thought it) a million times. The best way to teach this principle, however, is to help your teen get a job. Employment teaches teens not only how to develop a strong work ethic, but it builds confidence, teaches responsibility, and enables them to begin to understand how money works.
When you and your teen decide it’s time, have your child create a short list of job prospects (don’t forget babysitting, dog walking, camp counselor, pizza delivery, or Mommy’s helper). Give your teen a specific timeline to apply for jobs (e.g. in the next 7 days you will apply for X number of jobs). After that goal is met, have your teen follow-up on any and all leads.
If nothing pans out, repeat the process. Don’t forget to encourage your child by reminding them that every opportunity—even if it doesn’t pan out the first time—helps them build critical interviewing, communicating, and presentation skills.
2) How to open a checking account: Opening a checking account can be a rite of passage for your child. I remember when each one of my children turned 16, the second stop—after the driver’s license—was to open their own checking accounts.
Checking accounts offer crucial hands-on money training. They help your child monitor and record their money and spending. It’s a safe learning environment that will give your child much-needed money management skills. Shop around for the best checking account rates for teens. Many banks offer services for your child starting at age 13.
Read more: 13 smart money moves to make in your 20s
3) How to save: One of my favorite principles about saving is found in the Book of Proverbs. The wisest man—Solomon—takes us to the smallest of all creatures to learn a valuable lesson. He writes, “Nobody has to tell it [the ant] what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions.” Even ants know saving is better because the day is coming when you’re going to need something!
Teaching our children delayed gratification, not spending everything they make, and saving a percentage of what they make not only makes good money sense; it’s just common sense. Our society today is on a downward spiral of having it “all” right now. But when we teach our teens the importance of living below their means and saving a percentage of everything they make, we are teaching them how to be wise, savvy, money managers.
4) How to invest: There is something about seeing a small amount of money—tucked away and forgotten about—grow into a large sum. The basics of investing can be scary, even for the savvy investor, but as parents we can’t shy away from teaching our teens about investment options for the money we are teaching them to save.
If you feel totally uncomfortable in this area (like I did), go to Investopedia.com. They have a section on their website called Investing 101. Not only will it give you a basic understanding of what investing is and basic options for investing, it’s a great place to go for financial literacy and understanding of financial terms to help you build confidence as you teach your teen.
5) How to “value” money: The way that you talk about and use money teaches your teen how you value money. It’s important for parents to ask themselves (and to answer honestly) what are the “money values” that my children are learning from me?
Here’s one way to begin to understand how you value money better: Notice how you talk about money when bills are due, when money is spent, or when tax season rolls around! Do you complain, curse, or get angry? Do you avoid, dodge, or blame others? Or do you responsibly pay the bills, respect what’s owed, and spend within your means?
Mom, Dad, watch how you respond to money matters because your children are watching you. The way you react, talk about, and use money makes a strong impression on your children and you want to make sure you pass down great money values.