Money 101: Teaching Teens and Gen Z

Use young-adult milestones to teach the basics of personal finance

The teenage years are filled with milestones like learning to drive, bringing home a paycheck for the first time, or applying to college. And while these moments are unique and special in their own way, they all share one factor: money. For many teens, these events will be their first opportunities to manage and understand this responsibility. 

For parents and guardians, these milestones create opportunities to talk openly and honestly about money. Your discussions of topics such as car insurance, saving money, or student loans can help launch broader conversations about money.

Even though Gen Z has grown up immersed in social media and the internet, 39% of June 2021 college graduates surveyed by Experian said family members are still their preferred source of financial education.

If you’re not used to or comfortable talking about money, that’s OK. To give everyone a place to begin—no matter your financial situation or educational background—The Balance created this collection of resources focused on four key teenage money moments: bringing home their first paycheck, beginning to drive, getting ready for college, and starting to build credit. Each section includes conversation tips, key topics to cover with your teen, and financial product recommendations. 

We also spoke with education experts from nonprofit organizations such as Jump$tart Coalition and the American Public Education Foundation to get their thoughts on teaching teens about money. Plus, two young adults who are using social media to help teens confidently embrace personal finance shared their thoughts on how to make financial topics compelling and accessible for younger generations.

In a 2020 survey, the National Financial Educators Council asked  Americans to estimate how much money they had lost in the past year due to a lack of financial knowledge. The organization estimates that a lack of financial literacy cost Americans more than $415 billion—or an average of $1,634 each.

To start using these resources, check out the next article in this series, or visit our “Teaching Teens About Money” content hub to zero in on a specific topic as your teen approaches a new milestone. With these tools, your conversations, and the power of social media, your teen will be well-equipped to manage money with confidence.