Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
1. Teach the lesson of delayed gratification. If we’re being real, saving isn’t something that should naturally come to teenagers. To be real, it’s not even a value that comes easily to many of us. But it’s vitally important to teenagers in their formative years for a number of reasons. Help them understand that saving leaves them a cushion for later when they might really need it. Every child doesn’t have a long-term perspective. Sure, little Johnny, you might be able to afford the newest Jordans now. But if you wait, you might be able to buy the new computer. Or even a car. Imagine how cool you’ll be then?
2. If they don’t have a checking account, help them get one. Parents need to not only assist their children in getting a savings and checking account, but they need to teach teens how a bank actually works. If teens are out here as customers at the local check cashing place, we (especially you) have failed as a generation. Prepaid debit cards can be useful but they shouldn’t take the place of financial institutions that we rely on for mortgages, loans and other forms of bank-related business.
3. Impart your religious values as they relate to money. This does not apply to everyone, but if your financial value system includes contributing or tithing to your church or religious institution, it will fulfill you to teach your child what that means. Sure, maybe they’ve seen you put your check in the collection plate, and yes, you’ve likely taught this example and you ain’t even know it. But teaching them the purpose and reason why you do what you do is what’s going to last with your child. Teach them what the tithe means. Tell them why you do it. Sure they can see you, but the lesson of “why” will stick with them. Trust.
4. Teach your children to prioritize. This goes much further than saying that money doesn’t grow on trees. But one of the facts of life for many of us is that we have to put some things on the back burner to take care of what’s more important. I cannot stress how important this is for teens. Sit with your children and help them get some perspective on what’s important (school expenses, clothes for school) versus what might be less important (movies, concerts, trips). It doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy themselves. But it does mean that they’ll have a better appreciation for a dollar.
5. Teach them to give back. In terms of building character, there will be no better lesson that you can teach than the lesson of giving back. It’s no secret that there are so many Americans less fortunate, unemployed, underemployed and even homeless. Help your children know what this means and why its important. You’ll be sowing seeds for what will be a balanced, awesome and respectful adult.
Have tips about how to get children on the right track financially? Talk back to us on Twitter @blackenterprise.