5 Skills Your Teenager Should Prepare for Adult Financial Responsibilities

by Tracy · 13 comments

My oldest son graduating from high school in two years is an event that is hard for me to believe. Becoming the parent of a young adult is not only bittersweet emotionally, it’s also a bit frantic as you scramble to make sure they have all the skills that they’ll need to live independently.

Here are five of the skills and concepts that will help him manage his money wisely that I want to be sure my son masters before he goes off to live in the dorms.

1. How to cook and make wise food choices. A diet of dollar menu fast food and instant noodles is inexpensive, but it can lead to obesity and a slew of other health problems in the long run. It’s important that young adults learn how to make tasty, nutritious foods from scratch and to learn to make good choices in their college cafeterias.

The best way to teach teenagers these skills is to involve them in the family’s shopping and meal preparation and to eat meals together as much as possible. It’s probably natural that some kids will go a bit crazy on junk food when they first leave their home, but having these skills and knowledge of what healthy eating looks like will serve them well in the future.

2. Driving is a huge responsibility. Teenagers need to know it’s a privilege and not a right. Again, I think that setting a good example as a parent is crucial for helping your child learn good driving habits, so make sure that you are driving defensively and following all of the rules of the road. Driver’s education classes help, but it’s easy for young people to ignore what they’ve been told, if they see you doing differently.

Teenagers also need to understand the financial responsibility that comes with driving and owning a vehicle. They should know that insurance is not optional and must be paid on time every month if they wish to continue driving. They should also know just how much a ticket could cost if they are caught violating the rules of the road or if they are towed/booted for parking illegally. Finally, they should also understand the importance of routine maintenance and that they need to keep savings on hand to pay for any necessary repairs.

It’s a good idea to help your teenager learn that you don’t always need to rely on a car for transportation. Teach them how to use public transportation and how to ride a bike on the road safely. Gas and insurance prices will continue to go up, so it can be a gift to help your child learn to look for alternative transportation whenever possible.

3. Always read the fine print. Your teenager might roll their eyes at you and sigh deeply, but make it a point to read over all their contracts and agreements with them while they are still in your house. Their first checking account is a great place to start. Point out all the fees and policies that can affect their bottom line, such as monthly maintenance charges, overdraft charges and fees to use a foreign ATM. They need to learn that not knowing what they are agreeing to can cost them real money.

Be sure they know that they should read everything they are asked to sign and to ask questions if there is something they don’t understand.

4. The long-term consequences of student loans. You don’t want to discourage your child from perusing their education and dreams, but you also don’t want them to be saddled with a mortgage-sized debt the minute they graduate from college. Having a frank discussion with your child about how much you can help them with paying for their education is important in preparing them with realistic expectations of how much they’ll be able to afford to pay back once they start their careers.

Education is always worthwhile, but it might not be in your child’s best interest to take out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to attend a pricey university when a lower cost option would be a fine alternative. Be supportive of your child’s desires, but make sure that they have the information available to make an informed decision about where to go to school and how to pay for it.

5. Asking for help is okay. You don’t want your teenager to think that the bank of mom and dad will always bail them out from their irresponsibility, but make sure they know that you are there to offer them the benefit of your experience.

Teenagers should be encouraged to ask questions and to understand that it’s perfectly fine and normal not to know everything. Teach them that coming to you when problems are still small is beneficial to them because you can help them find a solution rather than waiting until the situation becomes a big mess.

You don’t have to solve their problems for them (and probably shouldn’t) but you can help them learn how to look at their problems in a productive way and how to break it down into manageable chunks. Most importantly, you can teach them that there is no shame in asking questions and that practically every problem can be solved with patience and clear thinking.

What are you teaching your children to prepare them for life in the real world? What do you wish your parents had taught you?

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Adwaith says:

    Nice and worthy points

  • Amy says:

    These are great, very well-balanced ideas.

  • Priswell says:

    Nobody, including a lot of parents, know how to cook anymore. Children should have at least 5 easy inexpensive recipes that are dead easy for them to cook, before they are launched into the wild blue yonder. It wouldn’t hurt if they had an iron skillet and a couple of good, small pans in their back seat when they leave the driveway, too.

  • MAMom says:

    During my son’s Senior year in High School I taught him how to do his own laundry and made sure HE did it and not me, even during baseball season!
    When he went off to college last year I felt assured that he was able to take care of this important part of taking care of himself.

  • Mano says:

    Yes, as parents, we are responsible in teaching these things to our children. At their age, they should know how to be responsible when it comes to money. Driving, especially, is one major case. they should be responsible enough in whatever they will do.

  • Late Driver says:

    I grew up on a rural island where driving just wasn’t needed. I walked or biked everywhere since nothing was far away. We had roads and my parents drove. I just didn’t have that push to learn.

    I went to college in a city with awesome public transit. So I didn’t have to drive there either.

    I knew I might have to drive for employment after college and started learning to drive just before my senior year. That was a mostly self-taught exercise involving a hand-me-down truck. Anyway, I didn’t get my license until after I graduated and was just before starting a new job.

    I wouldn’t recommend that for others. Yeah, driving may not seem important when you don’t need it but it’s a great skill to have. I think kids should learning to drive as soon as their state allows (generally 14-15).

  • Brad Jobs says:

    I think teenagers should be able to handle their money wisely while still young. They should know their priorities, the assets and the liabilities. Thanks for the great read.

  • Rup S. says:

    My oldest is graduating from SFU this year & will be a full fledged teacher, she has to gain household & financial skills as she a great amount of time studying but not gaining other life experiences. Where as my younger daughter has greater household and financial skills – two different personalities. This kind of knowledge should be taught in high school along with goal setting techniques, to allow them an easier transition to adult realities that life is not free but pay as you go… 🙂

    • Punkin says:

      Bravo and well said. I have long thought that our school curriculum is no longer correct for today’s youth. Children need not only the three R’s but Goal setting, financial, and organizational skills before they graduate HS.

  • Witty Artist says:

    It’s good if nowadays parents still have time to teach their kids stuff like this. 🙂
    If not, they will be ‘forced’ to learn it when moving out. I think the most important for them is to be organized, have a balance and take into account all the ‘fine prints’ in all situations. 🙂

  • Jenna says:

    Along with the cooking suggestion, how to do laundry and really clean a house. You’d be surprised how clueless some college freshmen are to these concepts.

  • I wish my parents taught me about being independent. I sort of learned on my own and was still babied and not “allowed” to do certain things.

  • Rafael @ Reis Financial says:

    This was an enjoyable read. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the first skill you listed. The ability to cook and make wise food choices can provide unlimited benefits for their health, wealth, and social life. Being the youngest sibling, I had the privilege of being forced to help out more around the house. On average I prepare more of my meals than dine out.

    Another skill set teenagers should learn is how to create a balanced budget, as well know the effects of compound interest for both debt and savings.

Leave a Comment