In the past, most people waited well into adulthood to start thinking about their finances. Parents have often avoided having complex financial conversations with their children, and schools rarely teach much about finance outside of check signing and basic math skills.
But now, with personal finance experts like Dave Ramsey bringing teenagers and children into the equation, there’s a lot of financial advice out there that gets you started a bit earlier. It’s never too early to start thinking about your finances. The sooner you start, the better.
In school, they don’t teach you about challenging financial tasks like obtaining a mortgage or paying your taxes. On top of that, the future still feels far away, and the idea of retirement is a foreign concept. But teenagers are faced with budget constraints and conflicting wants and needs as they age into the demographic that will have to worry about these things. So why not start now? If you’re not learning enough about personal finance in school and you want to know more, it’s time to start asking questions.
Each time you want to know more, write your question down. Bring these questions to your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or another adult you trust. Ask them to explain to you the budgeting method they use, too. If you’d rather find the answers on your own, Google is your best friend. But be wary of conflicting or inaccurate information. Choose sources that are reliable rather than forums or Wikipedia. Asking questions, reading books, and learning about personal finance in other ways now can help you set yourself up for financial success.
For those who are over 18, there are plenty of ways you can make money online at times that you’d otherwise be watching TV or scrolling through Instagram. Split that time in half instead, and you can both browse or socialize and make a little extra cash. For teenagers who haven’t hit this milestone yet, look into babysitting the neighbor’s kids. And if you are over age 16, you may be able to land your first part-time job.
We live in a time ruled by plastic. Debit cards are used far more often than cash now, so it’s important to learn about your money habits in both areas. Using a monitored or prepaid debit card in your teen years gives you time to learn about and understand this disparity so you can avoid it when the costs are higher. Bonus points if you use the cash you earn through your part-time job, online tasks, and babysitting or birthday money to fund the debit card. You’ll enjoy both more control and more confidence and independence in the early stages of your personal finance journey.
Now is an excellent time to start learning about deciphering between wants and needs. The money you make or receive as gifts shouldn’t be gone as quickly as it arrives. Learning how to pick and choose what you’ll spend your money on and then saving the rest will help set you up for a lifetime of healthy saving and spending habits.
College is costly, careers are competitive, and retiring early has become a goal for many in recent years. Locking in healthy financial habits now while you don’t have bills or a mortgage to pay will be much easier and can stick with you for a very long time.
Whether you’re looking forward to buying a new outfit or having a pizza night with friends, it’s important to set specific goals. Map out these goals in writing, including how much each one will cost, what you have now, and what you need to make to close the gap. It will help you stay focused on your goals, keep track of your money, and learn how to prioritize. This is an early lesson in budgeting that will help you feel more in control and rewarded when you reach your first financial milestones.