Teenagers are fun, but they have their own challenges for parents. The parenting lessons don’t seem to stop as your child grows older, but they do get a bit more fun.
As your child ages, they will start earning their own money, open up a credit or debit card and then learn about the world of taxes, reward systems and how to work in a society dominated by consumer-driven messages.
1. Establish Mantras and Guidelines
The easiest thing for teens to remembers as they are the simplest messages. For example, one of the absolutely best things to teach your child is that you don’t get rich by spending money. Make it a point to mention this once per week or so, especially when she is consumed with the purchase of those new must-have boots or he wants tickets to the latest concert with his friends.
While “You don’t get rich by spending money” is very all encompassing, other guidelines are nice and easy to remember as well. “Buy low and sell high” is a popular one that comes to mind for investments of all calibers. When talking about housing, you can mention (more than a few times) that you don’t want the total value of your house to be more than twice your income.
If you can, encourage your child – especially your child who is married or living together – to make do on one salary. That leaves the couple the option to stay home later or change careers more easily. This is usually done simply if you’ve started out married life this way.
2. Teach Your Child How to Prepare Taxes
If you don’t know how to prepare your own taxes, you might work together one year to do the basics, but every teen should be able to file their own taxes without having to take advantage of the high fees and wait times at financial centers. Most teenagers have simple forms. They likely work part-time and have one or two W-2s to work with.
They can use those forms on a 1040-EZ which is available through several online tax preparers, and they may not have to pay anything at all to file. The exception to this may be more complicated in some situations for children involving alternative forms of income. Regardless, help your child learn to handle tax obligations and to plan ahead of time for future tax obligations as their income grows.
Part of tax preparation is holding on to various files, and this is a great time to teach your child how to handle things like old paystubs and employment contracts. You might even invest in a used file cabinet or small file box to help your child set up what amounts to a small home office for things of this nature. Don’t just do your child’s taxes for him. Sit together and guide him as he does them himself. This will build confidence and skills for the future as well.
3. Build Smart Credit Early
Credit can have huge, lasting problems if you mess up early on. A mistake in your child’s first few years of independence can mess up his potential for a mortgage, a car loan and basic credit card options as well. Help your child understand that being given a certain amount of credit doesn’t mean that you should actually spend that much.
We live in a consumer-driven society where companies like young credit card holders. They especially like to charge them fees and have no qualms about leaving an 8 to 10-year ding on their credit report for late payments or delinquency. This is a very dangerous area for young people, and it can be a challenge as a parent to work with your child to understand how to navigate it.
Start your child early with a spending card that is connected to an account that you manage. This will make it very easy to see where and how your child is spending money, but also give your child to freedom to come and go with that credit as he pleases – up to a point.
In the early teen years, put your child’s allowance or another amount of money on the card for him, much like the bank might drop off a paycheck. Then, help your child understand how to budget out that money for lunches and other treats so that he can still enjoy money at the end of the week with his friends or save up money to spend later.
Using a prepaid card early on may help your child learn to avoid going over the limit and how to budget his own funds early enough that it is truly second nature by the time that he figures out how to manage his own part-time work paychecks and then the big money that comes when it actually starts his own career.