When our family entered the teenage arena we navigated the typical ups and downs of life with teens. As for their financial skills I had no idea what to expect. It turns out they amazed me with their money management skills.
In today’s numbers, teens spend about $2600 a year, mostly on clothes and food. These numbers show how teen spending contrasts sharply with the reality facing them in a few years. I knew from experience that those not-to-be-ignored adult expenses lurked just around the corner.
For today’s adults, the top two expenditures, housing and transportation, add up to 49%. Food comes in third at 13%. How was I going to prepare my “adults-in-training” for what was to come.
Cruising toward adulthood
That big 18th birthday transforms a teenager to an adult complete with legal financial responsibilities is one leap too far for most kids. I certainly stumbled into managing my finances because I wasn’t prepared when I turned 18. What did my kids need in those last years of childhood?
Allowing my teens to spend their money on clothes and food would only enable them to develop freewheeling attitudes about money. Somehow I needed to push them closer to knowing how to manage money as an adult.
To bridge those years from elementary school to post-high school my kids needed more of everything their early allowance years provided. They needed more hands-on experience, more money, more expenses to manage, and more decisions to make.
Give ’em the money
During the teen years we transferred hundreds of dollars each semester to our teens to manage on their own. Easy to do because it was money we’d spend on them anyway. We simply gave them total control.
We negotiated amounts to provide for their teen-appropriate expenses such as school fees, extracurricular activities, transportation, communication (cell phones, mobile devices), and education.
Teen: “How am I going to manage this for all these expenses?”
Parent: “It’s your money. You figure it out.”
They did! My teenagers managed it all, negotiated with us when they felt it was necessary, even paid their own college application and testing fees These kids allocated their funds appropriately with very little oversight by us.
Even as we weathered the teen years, money was never an issue. Money discussions replaced arguments. Guidance replaced directions. Money became a neutral topic
Our teens money management skills learned at home went to college with them. We negotiated our contribution and deposited it to their account. They were on their own after that.
Only after the final graduation did we realize that our college grads never once called home to ask for money. My adults-in-training passed with flying colors.