Help Your Teenager while Helping Yourself

by Elizabeth L. Blair

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Do you have a teenager or college age son or daughter still living at home or will you one day? If your child is attending school or taking a year off and you are offering free room and board during this time of transition, it is time to take charge and help your child benefit from the situation.

Regardless of the age of your son, if he has a part-time or full-time job, the opportunity to help teach him a lesson about the real world is at your fingertips. How? Simple, charge rent. If you have already been doing so, congratulations, you have been going down the right path. Now, I don't mean charge actual rent like that of an apartment. Simply charge a minimal amount that is acceptable for your circumstances. You are probably wondering how charging rent can help you and your child. To start, use part of the "rent" money for actual household expenses and put the other percentage in a savings account for your child. When the day comes for your child to hit the real world on his own, you can offer the amount you have been saving, with or without his knowledge, to help with a deposit on an apartment, furniture, books for school, or even a wedding.

Here is an example of how quickly depositing small amounts can add up. If you were to expect your child to pay only $50 a paycheck from her after-school job, her savings will be $1,200, not including interest, in one year. If she is staying with you for several years while she attends college or beginning a career in a specialty field, the amount of savings by the time she moves out will astound her. Of course, it is up to you on how much you desire to take out of the "rent" to help with the household bills. Even if you were to keep ten or fifteen percent for bills, the amount left in her savings is still ample.

As we all know, we learn most of our financial habits from our parents. By showing your kids how saving even a small percentage of their income can help in the long run, you are doing your kids a huge favor that will last them for the rest of their lives. Remember that habits can be broken and just because you did not receive the knowledge of good financial habits doesn't mean you can't teach your children responsible spending and saving. By holding some of your children's money, the cash will also be there in the event of an emergency such as car repairs, medical bills, or unexpected incidents. In addition, since many parent's funds are wrapped up in stocks and other investments, you will not need to worry about dishing out the money from your own pocket if an unexpected event occurs for your child as a savings account is cash on hand.

Once your child is living on her own, urge her to continue to save a small amount out of each check and remind her she didn't miss it while living at home. By teaching her to save for her future, you are preparing her for life's unexpected twists, all the while helping yourself by not being the rescuer every time. After all, teaching our kids to be responsible adults is what parenting is all about.

Elizabeth Blair is a freelance writer. She lives in Tucson, AZ with her husband and two stepsons. You can contact her at

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