When my teenage son was in high school there were no classes on spending, budgeting, or anything about safe spending. It amazes me still that we send our children to school to learn so they can be successful upon graduation, but our schools don’t even teach them how to fill out a check. Granted, this responsibility lies with the parent and although my son will have had lessons on managing his financial future there are a ton of kids he graduated with whose parents wouldn’t rise to the occasion or even know where to begin because they haven’t figured out budgeting themselves. According to a recent survey by AmericanExpress “more than half of parents (57%) with kids in high school and college give schools below average or failing grades in teaching kids responsible spending, with more than one-third (35%) giving a straight out ‘F’. This is compared to 37% of parents who give schools an ‘A’ or ‘B’ for teaching safe sex.” Startling.
When Ethan was in high school we got him an American Express PASS Card as part of his “hands-on” learning experience. He liked it because it made him feel grown up and it had his picture on it…typical teen. Each time he was given money it was on his card and he knew when it was gone that was it. Birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays replenished his card, but only manual labor filled the card with allowance. If he wanted money he had to work for it. He also understood that keeping good financial records was important and that protecting his personal information was inoperative. His SS# was stolen years and years ago and we are still cleaning up that mess. He understands how much damage that does because it has been nearly impossible for him to get anything in his name, even a bank account.
Now that Ethan is working and has a steady paycheck we are trying to fix his credit reports and we are taking steps at building good credit. I have encouraged him to save portions of his paychecks and to live on a small budget so he doesn’t feel like he gets no reward for the work he is doing. I started noticing some poor spending decisions he was making and urged him to journal his spending for the past few weeks. I think he was shocked to find that a good percentage of his “free money” was going towards eating out (he works for Outback). I believe if any teen tracked their spending for a month they would find similar expenses.