Teens Should Learn Personal Finance From Parents, Teachers

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Most high school students don't spend their time fretting over mortgages, stock prices, or their 401(k) plans, but they are at an age when smaller financial responsibilities start creeping into their lives.

Many teenagers earn allowances and begin working part-time jobs, so they need to make decisions about what to do with their money. High school students "also begin to have a lot more of a social life," says Margaret Magnarelli, senior editor of Money magazine and author of the textbook Per$onal Finance. "They might have a car and access to shopping and restaurants. And if they don't have a car, they want a car."

Teenagers often have many desires, but they must figure out how to allot their money for the things they want, says Magnarelli, who believes the first step to their financial understanding should be taught by parents.

"When you're shopping, and your child says, 'I want X item,' you can put that item into context," says Magnarelli. "Ask, 'what would it take for you to save up to buy that? How many hours of your part-time job would it take to achieve that?"

Parents can also help their kids understand financial responsibilities by being transparent with their own money decisions, says Magnarelli. For instance, she says parents can say, "We are not able to go to Spain for vacation this year, because if we did you couldn't go to basketball camp. So we're going to the New Jersey shore instead."

Other ways parents can teach financial responsibility include helping their kids set up a bank account and playing online stock market games, says Magnarelli.

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