Money lessons: teach your teenager about essential personal finance

Updated on 02 December 2016 | 0 Comments

Make time to talk your teenager about money. We cover a few essentials like bills, budgeting and payslips.

Talking to your teenager about anything can be a tough task at the best of times, but it's better for both of you to teach them about money.

Research from the Money Advice Service has found that people aged 16 and 17 are ill-prepared and need some last-minute education before venturing out into the real world, so it’s time to teach them some essentials!

We'll get to that - tell me more about this research

Nearly 5,000 people between the ages of four and 17 were surveyed, and further questions were directed at their parents.

Almost a third of 16 and 17-year-olds didn’t know what would happen if they didn’t pay their Council Tax and only 59% can read a payslip.

A recent survey found that nearly half of teachers noticed no change in the emphasis put on money teaching since it was introduced as a compulsory school topic two years ago.

Many teachers haven’t even received any advice or training on teaching the subject.

Things are better at home, but not by a long way. Only 61% of parents admitted that they feel confident talking to their children about money and only one third involve them in conversations about household finances.

So, based on Money Advice Service guidelines and some sage parental wisdom, we show you how to teach your teen about money.

Set an example

Let’s start off with the basics.

Children often learn from their parents’ financial habits. Therefore, if you make impulse purchases you don’t really need, your children will follow. Similarly, if you put money away, your kids will likely save too. 

The MAS research shows that 44% of parents don’t feel confident managing their money, 50% don’t save regularly and 68% say that keeping up with their credit commitments and bills is a burden.

Before speaking to the kids it might help just to sit down and think of your financial history and establish any habits, good and bad, which you might have passed on to your children. If they’re particularly damaging habits, find ways to challenge them – it would be worth getting your teen involved in this too.

Get them into the savings habit

Money management is all about putting a little bit away for later, or for unexpected emergencies. Encourage your teen to put away about 10% (or however much you see fit) of their allowance or wage every month.

If your kids have any savings accounts that they've had since early childhood, it's time to look over the account and how it works with them. Children can withdraw money from a Junior ISA at the age of 18, but they can start taking control of it age 16 so make them aware of their options.

If they don’t know already, teach them how to budget

Realistically, you can start teaching your kids how to budget at around the age of three or four using the three jar method.

It can start off simply: ask your teen to be in charge of the budget if you go out grocery shopping together.

After that you can help them take responsibility for their money by giving them a set budget for a task such as lunch or days out. If they waste it on something frivolous, don’t bail them out. It’ll be a valuable lesson for later.

Teach them how to set up a direct debit and how it can be used to transfer money into a savings account. Remember to stress how hassle-free and easy it is.

Give them a set and regular amount of cash, whether that be pocket money or setting up a current account complete with a debit card. Show them how to put in and withdraw money as well as warning signs that an ATM may have been damaged or tampered with by fraudsters.

On that note, scams are another essential financial area to explore. Though you can’t teach your child about every scam around, you can give them an idea of what the most common scams are like and actions they can take to protect their cash. Have a look at our scams page too see what’s doing the rounds.  

Check your credit report with loveMONEY today

Teach them about bills

Run through your energy, water, phone, broadband and other household bills with your teen.

Explain what different codes and jargon-y phrases mean (if you have no idea what they mean, explanations should be on your supplier’s website) and what different monetary values mean.

While you’re there, show them ways that they can reduce certain parts of their bill. For example on some energy bills, there’ll be a section with the cheapest tariffs.

Image credit: EDF Energy

It's also worth teaching them the value of switching. Take a look at the loveMONEY financial centre to compare the likes of current accounts, energy tariffs, car insurance, travel insurance and personal loans.

Show them your payslip

This will be useful if your child doesn’t have a job of their own or receives cash in hand.

Make sure you teach them about:

  • Gross pay
  • The amounts of deductions
  • Total take-home pay after deduction
  • The amount and method for any part payment of wage

Sussing out your tax code is important too. We have a handy little guide – read How to check you're on the right tax code 2016/17 for more.

It’s pretty good prep for the next step too.

Help them manage their first wage

This is a pretty Ronseal explanation, but it holds true. Use what they've already learned about budgeting to help them divvy out their first payslip between savings, essential outgoings and luxuries.

It’s a good opportunity to show your teenager ways that they can cut back on outgoings like giving them recipes to make lunch at home rather than buying expensive food when they’re out. Budgeting will mean more to them if it’s their own money.

For more, The Barclays Money Skills series has a range of money activities for people aged between 16 and 25 including videos, written exercises and conversation starters.

More about money management:

How to find cheap boiler cover

How to cut the cost of your home insurance

Find out how much you need to save for your retirement

Where to get help with paying your energy bills


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