We’ve all seen the memes that float around the internet about school versus real life because lets face it – financial education isn’t exactly a class taught in school. One popular meme recently read, “I’m so glad I learned about parallelograms in school instead of how to do my taxes. It really came in handy this parallelogram season!”
Another meme quips, “Me: How do I apply for a job, and how do taxes work? School: Diagram this sentence for no practical reason.”
While the merits of learning about parallelograms and how to diagram sentences aren’t really up for debate here, memes like these demonstrate the frustration of young adults facing real life after graduation.
As parents, it can be tempting to rely on our kids’ schools or curriculum to teach them everything they need to know, but this really isn’t a viable strategy. While a formal education is meant to be well-rounded, the fact of the matter is that our kids often miss out on vital life skills that they will need.
Sadly, neither homeschooled nor traditionally schooled kids obtain everything they should from school books and pre-prepared lessons alone.
That’s where parental responsibility comes in.
One of the most critical and influential issues you can address with your kid is the financial side of their upcoming adult world. We’re here to offer you some simple tips and tricks to get you started!
What to Consider
You’re on board and ready to go, but where should you start? What do they know, what should they know, and how to teach them?
First, sit down for a practical discussion. Probe their brains and discover how much they’ve absorbed through everyday life. Do they know what a tax bracket is? How do they think a budget works? Do they know what a resume looks like?
Understanding how much they know will give you a starting point.
Let them ask questions, too. Are they curious about any financial aspect in particular? Maybe they have questions about the financial side of a possible career opportunity and how it might affect their everyday life. Letting your student lead the conversation will give you insights on approaching topics with a willing learner.
Begin a list of topics to cover over the next few months or even the next few years. Here are some suggestions, based on common education gaps:
- How to apply for a job
- How to create a budget
- How to open a bank account and what documents might be required
- How to write a check
- How to complete a deposit slip and make a deposit (both check and cash)
- How to shop around for the right bank and/or credit union
- Tax basics
- What is a credit score
- What affects a credit score
- How a credit card works and how to apply
Adulthood is rampant with financial choices that affect their life long-term. Kids should graduate school and enter their adult lives well-prepared to face the onslaught of the financial world.
To offer your kid the best chance at applying the new knowledge you hope to give them, encourage them to earn their own money.
Of course, there are the “as-needed” money-making opportunities, such as babysitting or mowing a neighbor’s lawn. However, one way to maximize learning opportunities is to help them aim for a more official, formal position.
Money Prodigy offers a step-by-step guide to helping your teenager obtain a job, including how to address the fact that, as a teen, they really don’t have a resume.
While a teen seeking a first-time job doesn’t have an actual resume, they will need to know how to formulate a resume as a full-fledged adult in the real world. Teach your student various methods of looking for a job, landing an interview, and preparing a resume.
To successfully manage finances, having a solid budget is generally a reliable strategy. Teaching your kid how to budget and how a budget works is a great place to start their new educational route.
Ramsey Solutions suggests, “Incorporating some family budget meetings will help you show your teen how to make a regular budget each month before the next month begins…Have your teen do a zero-based budget. Show them how to list all of their expenses, setting aside money to give, save and spend—like we mentioned earlier. Once they’ve assigned every dollar a place and their budget equals zero, they’re done! The key here is repetition.”
As a young teen, I was enthralled when I discovered the world of budgeting. I had a part-time job, and my favorite aspect of payday was assigning every cent to its allocated category. My mother introduced me to a simple home version of Quicken and let me experiment. It was a practical and fun way for her to teach me this vital life skill.
Giving kids helpful tools and allowing them to learn through trial and error is an effective method of giving them some practical, real-life experience while you’re available to help when necessary.
Next, take your kid to the bank. Show them how to open an account, teach them the difference between a checking and a savings account, and show them how to make a deposit and withdrawal. Demonstrate how an ATM works and ensure they fully understand where the money comes from when you take ATM cash.
Remember to teach them practical bank knowledge such as:
- What documents you may need to open an account
- The difference between a cash deposit and a check deposit
- The basics of a direct deposit
- Other helpful services the banking establishment may offer and the simple basics of each (mortgages, personal loans, auto loans, etc.)
Many banks offer training accounts specifically for teens, complete with a specialized debit card and a checkbook. My parents started me on a similar account when I was fifteen, which was a tremendously beneficial training experience.
Forbes Advisor explains, “The best teen checking accounts offer no or low fees, easy access to money, parental controls, low minimum requirements, digital banking tools and a great customer experience. If the account earns a little interest, all the better.”
Forbes continues with their list of the best teen checking accounts in 2023, which parents may find helpful when exploring this concept. Be sure to include your student in the bank-finding process! Knowing how to shop for the best bank for your needs is also a helpful skill!
The Big “T”
Taxes. Every citizen’s dreaded reality and an unavoidable part of a financially productive life.
It’s time to broach this big topic with your teen, especially if they’ve landed a job. Start with the basics.
Explain what a tax is and the types of taxes (federal income, state, and county taxes, etc.) If this is new territory for them, your student might be shocked at how much of their life will be overshadowed by the fantastic array of tax types they will be subject to, so give their brains time to adjust to this information.
Don’t forget to mention what taxes pay for—from national defense to the local playground. No matter your personal views on the U.S. federal, state, and county tax systems, taxes go toward specific budgetary categories, and understanding where their money will go is valuable information for your child to carry into adulthood.
Teach them basic terms and their meanings, such as:
- Net income
- Gross income
- Tax bracket
- Tax refund
- Tax return
If your kid has a regular job, help them make the best decisions concerning their tax forms. Help them understand what each portion of the forms means including their potential withholdings, social security, etc.
If your teen is self-employed (makes money on their own without a regular employer), they will need to fill out a 1099 tax form. Help them understand how self-employment taxes work and how this process differs from a tax form through an employer (such as a W2).
All of these terms are words and phrases they should be familiar with before they enter the workforce for good.
Eventually, it will be time to teach your student about filing taxes. If they have a job, you can help them file their own taxes. If they won’t be filing taxes of their own, let them watch you file yours, or choose another way to teach them about this process.
Helping your working teen file their taxes for the first time is a fairly simple process. Family Finance Fav$ breaks it down for you!
“Here’s how you can teach your working teen how to file taxes with minimal effort and no charge:
- Visit the IRS free file site. Make sure your teen meets the income requirements…
- Pick one of the free tax prep programs. Turbotax online is excellent. Simple. Clear.
- Walk through the screens together. Let your teen take the wheel and do the data entry while you take the passenger seat and answer questions.
- Snag that refund. Tax prep software like TurboTax will let your teen direct deposit the funds right into a bank account or onto a prepaid card.”
The world of credit is big and complex, but when your student enters adulthood, they need a basic understanding of how it all works. Credit Critics offers a good overview of the basics for newcomers to the credit world.
Credit.com advises parents, “Knowledge is the most basic element of good financial health. The most important thing to do is to educate your kids on how to use credit as a financial tool. Focus on the positive aspects of having a good credit score while emphasizing that access to credit is a serious responsibility with the potential to cause lasting effects if used recklessly.”
Some basics to cover include:
- Good credit vs. bad credit
- What is a credit score and what affects it
- What is a credit check
- The difference between a soft credit check and a hard credit check
- What are interest rates and how they work
- How a credit card works and how to apply for one
Just like with bank accounts, there are “training” credit cards for teens, too. Examples of these are authorized user credit cards and secured credit cards. Forbes Advisor gives parents the scoop on these along with other vital info for parents and teens on the topic of credit.
It’s a Start
Preparing our kids for life in the real world is a daunting task. As parents, we’ll never think of everything that they need to know, and at some point, they will hit a wall and think, “Why didn’t I learn this in school?”
But this reality shouldn’t deter us, it should inspire us.
Giving our kids the best start that we can involves careful planning, patience, prep work, communication, and a whole lot of love. With dedication and foresight, we give our kids a solid foundation upon which to build their future.
This is the second article in our 4-part series on teaching finances. If you didn’t catch the first part, click here to read, Everyday Tips for Teaching Money Management. Or click here to move on to the third part, Setting Your Teens Up for Financial Success, and keep reading!
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