Financial habits parents should be teaching their teenagers

Chronicle Media
Pamela Atkinson, consumer economics educator

Pamela Atkinson, consumer economics educator

High school graduation time is rapidly approaching. Parents need to be sure their children are financially savvy before leaving for college.

“Parents should be sitting down with their children and having financial discussions and helping them with skills like budgeting if they haven’t already,” according to Pam Atkinson, consumer economics educator for University of Illinois Extension. “There are five basic areas to be covered and mastered with children before they leave for college.”

Students learning financial skills in high school consumer economics classes may lose those skills if they are not immediately used on a consistent basis.

“Often, students take these classes early in their high school careers, before obtaining a job and having financial responsibilities,” said Atkinson. “They may not be ready to understand the big picture of young adulthood. When they leave for college and have to manage on their own financially, students can become overwhelmed.”

On the other end of the spectrum, some parents completely take care of their children throughout college, not allowing them learn from making and correcting their own mistakes.

When they get a job and leave home, they lose the safety net of parental guidance which can set them up for financial issues.

Here are a few basics that parents can do now to help ensure their students financial independence down the road.

Encourage financial freedom. Encourage part time jobs and working on school breaks. Studies from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education show that working no more than 10-15 hours a week actually helps teens get better grades as they learn to be more organized with school, work and social activities. Having their own money helps too. However, don’t just let them loose with their paychecks. Talk to teens about what they are expected to pay for, save, and what future expenses they may incur.

Help them develop and stick to a spending plan. Knowing their plan allows them to spend so much on clothes or music or eating out is empowering rather than restrictive.

Make sure they create and fund a savings account. Teach them to pay themselves first! Savings accounts are great ways to prepare for emergencies, last minute opportunities, and long range plans. It’s never too early to begin talking about saving for retirement!

Teach about responsible use of credit. Extend small loans from the Bank of Mom and Dad and require repayment on a specific schedule. Don’t forget to include late fees and interest. This helps create a safe space to learn. Consider helping them get a secured credit card or adding them as an authorized user on one of your credit cards to help them build a credit history.

Embrace, but limit financial slip ups. We all make mistakes. What and how we learn from them is essential to future financial success. Talk it out with your children, find out why they made the choices they did, help them brainstorm ideas of how to do it better next time and work out a financial restitution plan. Make sure you stick to it.

Learn more about financial topics by attending Money Smart Week classes. Money Smart Week is April 23-30. Classes are available on a variety of topics and they are all free. Learn about what classes are in your area at or on Facebook at Money Smart Week B-N.


For more information, call Pam Atkinson, University of Illinois Extension unit educator, Consumer Economics-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit

(309) 663-8306,




— Financial habits parents should be teaching their teenagers —