Personal finance is something that many adults struggle with in their daily lives. Surveys show that a significant percentage of adults do not balance their checkbook and they do not manage their money well. Rather, they float through their lives with a generally vague idea about their current financial situation. When in doubt, people use credit cards and only worry about the checking account when there are significant crisis situations. Teaching a teen how to balance a checkbook is an important skill but there are techniques that must be kept in mind. Here are a few thoughts on instilling financial habits in young people that will last in adulthood.
MODELING BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that teaching teens is largely about modeling. If the parents do not balance their own checkbook, it is going to be difficult to teach a teen because they will question the importance of the activity. The average teen understands hypocrisy. When children are younger parents can get away more with “do as I say but not as I do”. However, parents must be ready to balance their own checkbook before they have these types of expectations for their children.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Teaching about financial skills is about legitimate practice. Therefore, teaching a teen how to balance a checkbook requires setting up a checking account. It may be important to set it up initially in both the name of the parent and the child. Once the statement for the first month comes, it is important that the parent sits down with the teen and check off each item. Granted, there may not be much activity, but starting small oftentimes makes it easier to instill a habit.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
The teaching does not end here with the first monthly financial statement. For the first year, the parent should go over the same process with the teen so that the process becomes a habit. Over time, the parent can start to let the teen do it themselves, but they should still check back with them to make sure that they are following the habits that they have learned initially.
Teaching a teen about financial management is also about balance. The parent needs to monitor the activities of their teen so that they know how the teen is spending their money. Still, they must allow their teen some level of freedom so that they learn independence, confidence, and responsibility.