Have you ever thought your teen is “good with money” or just “a spender” and there’s nothing you can do about it? It’s just their personality, right?
We don’t realize how much we teach our teens about money even when we aren’t trying. Then, we see how they behave with money without understanding how much we influenced those habits. Let’s consider what lies beneath the surface of our teen’s habits with money.
I’ll start with a confessional. When I was young, I had very specific beliefs about money. I really, truly believed that
- Wealthy people were shallow. (My parents were academics, and they didn’t work to build their wealth. They focused “living within your means” only, so you can see how I arrived at that conclusion.)
- Money was a pain. I never had enough, and whenever I wanted any, I had to argue with my parents. I usually lost that argument.
- It would be fine if I never learned to manage money; I fully expected to marry a man who would take care of that area of our lives. (My dad was in charge of the money in my home, so you can see how I arrived at that conclusion, too!)
- Money was something “other people had, not me”. (My parents often said “We can’t afford that”, so you can see how that thought got hatched in my young brain!)
- There were only two things I could do with money: save it or spend it. I got an allowance, which I immediately spent on who-knows-what, while my sister always saved her allowance. (My parents gave us an allowance, but never taught us money management strategies, so I never knew how to save, spend, give, and donate in a managed way.) So, I was the daughter who was “bad with money” and my sister was “good with money”. I believed that about myself for most of my life.
- Rich people gave money to causes that mattered, and people like me just “walked for causes” and “sold stuff” to raise money. I never thought of myself as a person who could use my money to make a difference in the world in ways that mattered to me.
- Money management wasn’t for me, because I hardly had any. And no one told me anything different.
My parents tried to instill in me a sense of financial responsibility, but their efforts never worked well. They didn’t realize how much they taught me, just by allowing those thoughts and beliefs to take hold.
Long story short, I brought these beliefs about myself, people, and money into my adult financial life. Predictably, I became a teacher with a disastrous financial life. . . until I learned to think differently.
Here are some “beliefs” you can nurture in your teen that will form a solid foundation for a healthy financial life, regardless of how much money they have now and regardless of their “money personality”.
- Managing money well MAKES it grow. Not having much money is the BEST reason for managing it well.
- Wealth is the result of a series of small steps, taken repeatedly over time. Anyone can take these steps and have this result.
- Money is a tool that allows you to fulfill your commitments to yourself and others.
- Managing your money takes energy and time. Being broke is truly and deeply exhausting. Wealthy people make money management important. Broke people say, “Money isn’t important. It can wait. It’s too much of a pain.”
- Money doesn’t MAKE you shallow or greedy. People show their true nature by the way they use their money.
- Money management is NOT rocket science! Learn simple money management strategies. Practice them when you’re young so they become habits that serve you as an adult.
Jill Suskind, M.Ed. is a 25-year veteran public school teacher. Since 2007, she has been working with parents and their teens, providing innovative, practical, and effective resources and guidance for preparing teens for adulthood with positive money habits and attitudes.
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