It’s easy to decide that older teenagers need to know a few things about money. After all, teenagers start to look like adults. For example, if you have a new driver, they need to know a few things about know to pay for gas. Driving, like other steppingstones in life, demands that we get up to speed on certain financial concepts.
On the other hand, our youngest ones, even when we teach them about rudimentary money ideas, have a ceiling on what makes sense. I doubt either parent or 5-year-old would enjoy a conversation on mortgage interest.
In between those age groups lies a quandary for many of us. What do we do with the middle years or the tweens as they’re sometimes described? They’re grown up in some respects, but children in others. How does that play into what we should or should not teach our young teenagers about finances?
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Here’s six ideas for where to start:
Paying for things at a store
Paying at a register might sound rudimentary, but remember it is still something that requires experience. Give your child a safe place to learn this idea by letting your young one be the one to hand over cash, yes cash, at an outing to the store. Take a moment to help them check the receipt and change provided for accuracy.
Carrying a wallet
Carrying a wallet might seem trivial but think about it for a moment. Carrying around a wallet of some sort, even with just a few dollars, is a bit of responsibility. As adults, we must keep track of valuables in our day to day. Let your child learn it now when the risk is low before they have a driver’s license, a debit/credit card, or something more valuable to lose.
Using money on an outing
The next time your tween goes on a school trip, church excursion, or outing with friends, talk with them about spending money while they’re away. Independence for a few hours is an opportunity to help them understand what is or is not a worthwhile use of money. It also teaches them the lesson of considering this question ahead of time and not in the moment as an impulse purchase. You'll do even better if you debrief (not interrogate) after the outing and see how it went.
Saving up for a goal
At this stage of life, your child may have clothing, a video game, or another purchase that requires saving. A conversation on saving for an item is an opportunity to help them research the price and make plans about how to save up for the purchase. This is a lesson not only in shopping around, but also delayed gratification. When your tween achieves their goal, be sure to give them positive feedback on sticking to their plan.
The concept of tithing for someone who is a long way from a steady salary can be difficult to grasp. Introduce the idea of giving as a conversation about what your family values and how to think about where gift to others could go. This might be the offering plate at church but could also be a local charity you help your child find. Donating is also an opportunity to discuss the idea of giving in the spirit of Matthew 6:2 (giving without seeking credit).
This is an age where you can start to teach your tween about taxes. They’re at an age where they have started to hear the passionate opinions society has about taxation, so help them begin to put it into a personal context. The lesson can involve any trip to the store and a small math lesson. However, my favorite place for the lesson is a trip to a dollar store. The dollar store makes the math easy, but hammers home the key lesson: what you see on a price tag is not what you pay.
A Word About Mistakes
The early teenage years can be difficult period for a host of reasons. Part of what makes it difficult is how much our children try new things and often face failure or a result they did not want. This will undoubtedly happen with the increasing responsibly they are taking on with money. Help them see a mistake, learn from it, and do better the next time. It’s what we’re here for isn’t it?
These hands-on ideas are starting points. Don’t let yourself be limited to just these. Expand the lessons as your child does with any other learning. Also remember, these learning moments are opportunities to do something together.
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