It’s Your Money Column – Educating Youth About Money Matters

Educating youth about money matters

Question: I’d like to help my teenage son learn to manage his money, but I’m in the dark about how to start.

Answer: One of your responsibilities as a parent is to teach kids the skills and discipline to make their dreams come true. Teaching children to save gives them lifelong money management skills. This lesson should start with setting goals because, as we know, few children are motivated to save for an abstract idea. However, learning to save for something they want makes sense.

As much as you can, let your son make his own decisions. Once he can articulate something important that he wants to save for, help him decide the best place for his savings. Teach him how to shop and compare savings choices. Show him how to set up a simple procedure for tracking changes in his savings. Be available for consultation and sympathy, but don’t bail him out if he makes poor decisions and spends his savings.

An interesting and useful resource through 4-H is a two-part series, Financial Champions. The series has great information and lots of activities. Financial Champions is targeted to middle school students, grades 7 through 9.

Book 1 begins by helping young teens understand how they think about money. This exercise is excellent for opening conversations about money. Introduce the "Real-Life Scenarios" as a dinner topic. The discussion, based on individual beliefs and values, shows how different people think about money.  

The goals and spending activities in Book 1 are based on the interests of the teens. Additional activities offer thoughtful questions to consider and discuss. Another activity suggests that teens identify the motivation behind a television character’s behavior relating to money. This activity also can be used with characters in books and movies.

Book 2 takes teens to the savings level and guides them to learn more about checking accounts, certificates of deposit, ATM cards and mutual funds, as a few examples. Interest rate activities cover the power of savings. Teens learn about credit and checking accounts in numerous activities.  

The Financial Champions series has two workbooks for teens plus a helper’s guide. These materials are available for $4 each plus $3 postage for one or all three booklets from the Cooperative Extension Resource Center, (970) 491-6198.

This is a fun way to introduce financial concepts to your children as they mature.

– 30 –

Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,