Teach Teens About Money and Spending

Teach Teens about Money and Spending

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Do you discuss money with your kids?  I mean, do you discuss money beyond allowance?  I have to admit that any discussion in our household about kids and money morphs into a review of the current state of the attitudes of young people on debt. But then, I suppose one would expect that in a household where both parents are bankruptcy lawyers.    

My kids are grown and out of the house, but we used to have allowance day the first of every month.

When we first started giving allowances, we used the $1 for every year method. As they grew older and showed that they could handle their small allowances responsibly, we added more, but we also expected them to cover more of their entertainment and discretionary spending.

I never received an allowance when I was a kid. My husband reports that he, too, didn't get an allowance on a regular basis. In our family, whenever we brought up the subject my dad would say, "You don't need an allowance. If you need anything, I'll get it for you."  Note that he did not say, "if you want anything." Wants were generally saved for gift-giving occasions. 

Of course, a lot of that attitude stems from my parents' Depression-era childhood. There was no money for an allowance. If you wanted more than the necessities, you had to find a way to get it yourself. I'm glad to say that I have been fortunate to be able to spare my children those particular struggles.


On the other hand, necessity is the mother of invention. Having seen way too many privileged young adults come into our bankruptcy law practice with a huge sense of entitlement but no sense of what it takes to build a budget or service debt, my husband and I chose early on to give our children access to money over which they had control and, we hoped, the skills to manage it.

I think we've done pretty well. My son managed to stay within his allowance budget during his college experience.  My daughter decided that her wants were greater than we were willing to provide, so she took a part-time retail job, but now works full time in an office.

As for college debt, they have not yet incurred any.  For that I am very grateful. We have seen so many young people in our bankruptcy practice saddled with tens and even hundreds of thousands in student loan debt that we can do little about. It is notoriously difficult to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.

My son chose to spend his first two years in a community college, then transferred to a university near home that offered merit scholarships. Dear daughter is also choosing the community college route to save money. 

Other kids have not had the advantage of having bankruptcy lawyers for parents. But there are some excellent resources available to parents and young people to learn how best to make, save, and spend finite financial resources.  Here are some of my favorites for teaching teens about money and consumer debt. In a future post, I'll include resources for working with younger kids to get them started on the right path.


Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) program began in 2002 as the brainchild of Judge John C. Ninfo, II, then Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of New York. Through CARE, bankruptcy professionals go into high schools, colleges and other settings to teach kids how to lead financially responsible lives.  You can schedule a presentation through the website.  You can also find a wealth of information right there on the site.  

High School Financial Planning Program

The High School Financial Planning Program, offered by the The National Endowment for Financial Education is a series of six modules for teaching financial literacy to teens.  The materials, including the student tuide, lesson plans, and worksheets are available for immediate download, free of charge, or hard copies can be ordered from the site.

 The site also provides access to teacher training, evaluation materials and online student practice quizzes.  I include myself among HSFPP's many fans, having taught the program to homeschooled teens several times.  

Check out the Kids and Money site, where Andrea Travillian talks about allowances, teaching kids about investing, jobs for kids, and just about anything you can dream up. Then visit Miriam Caldwell's Money in Your 20s, which covers everything a young person needs to understand, manage and grow their income when they're starting out.