Raising a Financially Responsible Teenager

by Marianne Giullian


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As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children to become financially responsible by age 18. By including them in the planning and purchasing process, you can learn to work together and avoid the conflict and guilt that occurs so frequently. Teaching your teenager how to responsibly manage money will also help to prevent your resources from disappearing faster than you would like.

Here are several suggestions to help your teens learn fiscal responsibility. Since teens tend to be interested in their clothing, that is a good place to start. First, have them take a clothing inventory. By doing this, you will know how many pairs of pants, shirts, sweaters, etc. they have. You can weed out clothing that is out of date, too worn, or that they just don't like. When they want to get clothes, you can at least suggest that they get what they need. The inventory makes you, the parent, aware of what they have so you won't purchase a pair of pants if they already have a dozen in their drawer. You will also have a better idea of clothing to purchase for birthdays or Christmas. Have them take the clothing they don't want to a consignment shop where they will get some money back for their discards. Knowing that they only get $3 for a $25 sweater might make them think twice before buying it or getting rid of it.

When kids are between 12 and 14, plan to spend a certain amount for the year on their clothes and school supplies. They choose how the money will be spent, but you still pay for things up to the amount budgeted. They can buy expensive clothes or expensive school supplies if they want, but when the money is out, they are responsible for any other expenses that year. You could also try giving them a certain allowance for each item, and if they want something else, they have to make up the difference. For example, if they want $60 shoes and you only want to spend $30, let them know that you will provide $30. If they really want the more expensive shoes, they will have to make up the difference. I prefer to give them a yearly budget since you don't have to deal with every item and hear all the reasons why you should buy it. If they have a yearly amount, then they can buy their shoes if they want, but they may have to go without a new coat that year. By including them in these decisions, they are more conscientious and careful about how the money will be spent. This eliminates the constant battle of them begging and you always saying no. It removes the emotion and guilt from the situation.

When they are between 14 and 16, use the same system of establishing a budget for the year for clothes and school supplies, but give them the money instead of you holding the purse strings. This could be a lump sum at one time or a certain amount each month. I try to give our kids a lump sum twice a year in January or February and again in August or September so they can purchase clothes off season for the next year. You can get a lot more clothing for you dollar using this timing. The decision about what to buy is still theirs and they can choose to buy something on sale or for the regular price. Once again, you avoid the confrontation about whether something is too expensive or they ask for too much. By giving them the freedom to choose, teenagers will certainly make mistakes. It will be necessary to bite your tongue at times. They learn by making the mistakes themselves and living with the consequences. Instead of pointing out their mistakes to them, simply ask them how they feel about the choices they made and how they might do it differently in the future.

When kids are 16, they can be responsible for paying for their own clothes. If we choose to pay for something, we do it because we want to. There is no obligation on our part. We do this because they will be on their own in two years and we want them to learn the valuable lesson of depending on themselves while they are still home. This way they can make their mistakes while they are still under our roof. We open a checking account for them at this age and they learn to balance a checkbook as well as reconcile it each month when the statement comes. They can get a part-time job (10 to 15 hours per week) if they want more money or they can do extra jobs around the house, mow lawns or baby-sit occasionally. We also ask them to contribute 10 percent for savings and 10 percent for a contribution to our church or other charitable organization.

By doing these things, we have helped our children to be educated in financial matters and they also have the experience of carrying them out while we are still around to provide support and help when they have questions. Working together by including them has made them more careful in the decisions they make. It is also more enjoyable to go shopping together when they understand their limits ahead of time.


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