It's a topic that most parents and kids don't discuss, at least not as often or as in depth as they should. And it's something many teens don't hear enough about in school.
When I was a kid, I remember saving pennies, dimes, nickels, and (oh, joy!) quarters. I'd roll them up and my Dad would take me to the bank to cash it in. Eventually, I had my own "bank" and made deposits in secret stash accounts within my home.
Once I reached high school, I made some cash with my own tutoring and babysitting gigs. I felt that I was pretty responsible with my money, budgeting enough for needs and wants, and eventually opened a checking and savings account to start putting away some $$ for college life.
Hey, I even took accounting as an elective! Maybe I was genuinely interested in feeling more money conscious. Or maybe it was to avoid the homemaking class, because the idea of cooking, baking, and sewing made me cringe (still does sometimes). Whatever the case, it was in accounting that I learned about personal finance (assets, budgets, cash flow, etc.). It was not in my economics class or any math class, for that matter.
And not much has changed.
I went on to college to make my own financial mistakes and learn from them. And though I was pretty frugal compared to my friends and other college kids, I didn't know things.
I didn't know about credit, or how to pay back student loans, or the importance of an emergency savings. After graduation, I felt so ignorant to these things, as I'm sure a majority of students do.
So, as much as I hope our Money Rocks program will spread like wildfire into the schools and touch thousands of lives, I thought I'd also put together a few tips for the parent (or the teen) preparing for the future.
- Have open conversations. Parents and teens need to talk about budgets. Look at how much the parent makes and the monthly expenses, then see how much is left at the end of each month. It's pretty eye-opening!
- Open a bank account. Seriously, I wish I would have done it earlier than I did. It's important to have the experience handling both virtual money AND cash AND a debit card before going off to college. It's a great time to experience the feel of a plastic card in the hand, without the threat of going into credit card debt!
- Make some money! Anyone at any age can earn money. Help neighbors with yard work, practice saving birthday money, babysit, wash cars, tutor, part-time job at a retail store, or come up with your own business idea! It's so much easier to save money when you don't have responsibilities and a ton of expenses to worry about.
- Pay yourself first. You'll hear our staff say this all the time. And it's a tip that REALLY works. Setting money aside early means more money later! Pick a percentage of what you want to put in savings, and stick to it.
- Write down needs versus wants and think about goals! Time to prioritize how you want to spend money. Being specific and having a plan makes it easier to save money.
- Give. I was taught to give 10% of my income to my church. So whether it's church or charity, it's important to invest in something selfless and meaningful.
- Emergency fund - do it. Establish a separate savings account that's just for an emergency. That way when something big happens (car accident, for example), it's handled.
- Think about retirement. Well, at least a Roth IRA! These can be used without penalty to help pay for a first home, to pay higher education expenses, and even to pay medical bills. And, guess what? If the account is open for at least five years, there are no penalties for using it before retirement. For a person under 18, a Roth IRA can be opened as a custodial account. There's usually no fee to open one, but there may be a minimum contribution requirement. Definitely check it out!
- Work your butt off in school. I know school can really be a drag and teachers just don't get it, but it's such a small speck in time. Bullied, having relationship issues, family hardship, etc.? Keep your head high, find a support system (outside of school), and be yourself. You will continue on and live an awesome life that only gets better! Believe me, I've been there.
Work hard now, look to your future, and be smart with your money. Start looking for scholarships and grants early if you plan to go to college. Research student loan options and ask about repayment options BEFORE ever taking out a loan. OR look into an apprenticeship if you want to go straight into the workforce. Some businesses will even pay for you to go to school part-time while you work.
Finance. It's not a dirty word. Talk about it. And take some preventative steps to ensure a secure financial future! If you want some guidance, feel free to contact us for some financial coaching at 843.735.7802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jenna Johnson, Marketing & Development Director