Smart About Money: Teaching Teens the Value of Money


A friend whose daughter is turning 13 asked me what I, as a banker, would recommend he and his wife could do to make sure she had solid “money/finance” confidence before she legally becomes an adult at 18.

It’s a great question.

Community bankers helping customers (of all ages!) work their way out of a bit of a financial jam often hear people say, “I wish I had learned that. No one ever taught me.” It’s a shame.

So what can a parent teach a teenager that gives them age-appropriate, practical experience managing money? Here are three things that are free, easy to do, and will benefit your kids for their entire lives:

1. Open a dedicated free checking account that you and your child manage together. (Depending on their maturity, you may want to have the account either in your name alone or with them on the account as well. An adult must be on the account of a person under 18.)

Handling a checking account is a key life skill. A simple “training wheels” account is a low-risk, real-life way for you to help your kids get familiar with checks, ATM/debit cards, online banking, and account statements.

Fund the account with a modest sum — maybe set aside savings from birthday/holiday cash gifts. The goal is to give them an early chance to be part of successfully handling their “own” money.

2. Forced savings are the miracle of modern finance — a simple, painless way to save. And 13 is about the perfect time to get kids into the excellent “pay yourself first” habit.

Have them agree that a certain percentage of any money received or earned goes directly into a savings account — perhaps one connected to that checking account they’re sharing with you.

If your kids are like most people, they’ll quickly learn that the money adds up very fast and that they don’t miss it at all on a day-to-day basis.

3. There’s no better way to learn about what things cost than paying for them! Help your teenager learn about trade-offs, value, and making good choices by having them pay some of their living expenses — cell phone bills, school clothes, gas, team fees and gifts, for example. Let them see for themselves how quickly expenses can multiply.

Bonus suggestion: Too many college kids get into trouble with credit cards. Talk to your kids about not getting a credit card until they are working at their first serious job. They will be very grateful in their 20s not to be saddled with a mountain of super-high interest rate credit card debt and a bad credit rating.

Please note: If your family/financial situation is unusually complex, please consult with your advisor(s) before implementing any of these ideas.

Nick Maffeo is the senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at the Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. Have a question? Email to

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avatar Posted by on Apr 11 2012. Filed under Opinion, Smart About Money. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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