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Teaching Teenagers the Facts of…Money

Teenagers today seem to be woefully uneducated about money: where it comes from, how to handle it, how to manage it, and how to respect it. Why is that? Is it that the education system has cut back classes and curriculum to only bare essentials? Parents are too busy? Teens just aren’t paying attention? In fact, many teenagers are cynical about the banking and investment institutions, and more willing to look at alternative money management solutions—but they are also not fully educated on the pluses and minuses of each.

As a parent, it’s really our responsibility to make sure our children get at least the basic understanding of money and how to handle it. Don’t think that some generous outside person or institution will take care of that for you.

It sounds a bit overwhelming, but not if you break it down into specific areas. Sometimes you may not even have to go into much detail—just giving them the basic knowledge or experience is enough.

Our topic suggestions for Basic Money Life Lessons:


  • How do you apply for a job? What personal information should you bring to a job interview and to fill out the application?
  • What benefits, if any, come with the job? Do they provide additional financial benefit (free meals, health insurance, discount on products)?
  • What does direct deposit mean?
  • What are the deductions that are taken out of a paycheck?

Money management and banking

  • How do you write a check, get and/or send a money order, get a prepaid debit card?
  • What kinds of bank accounts are available? What are the fees and account minimums to look out for?
  • What happens if you bounce a check, or overdraw funds?
  • How and when do you use an ATM?
  • How do you make a budget? How do you know what expenses to include? (our previous post on budgeting expenses here, and budgeting income here).
  • How do you save for a goal?
  • How do loans work?


  • When do teenagers have to start paying taxes?
  • How do you file a tax return? How many tax returns do you have to file?
  • What happens if you don’t have money to pay your taxes?

Education expenses

  • See our previous post here about grants, scholarships, and loans for students.

Credit cards

  • At college, students are bombarded with credit card offers. When do you accept one, and how should you select one?
  • What happens if you miss a payment?
  • What are interest rates?
  • What fees are involved?
  • What happens if you can’t pay off your credit card?

How to rent a place to live

  • What information is needed for a rental application?
  • What happens if you miss the rent payment?
  • What do you need to consider when getting roommates?
  • How do you sign up for utilities?
  • What happens when you miss a utility payment?
  • What is a security deposit, and how can you make sure you get it back?

Keeping your finances secure

  • What scams should everyone watch out for?
  • How do you keep confidential information secure?
  • What passwords are most secure?
  • How can you be careful at the ATM, and at stores and restaurants?
  • How do you shop carefully online?
  • What information should you share (and not share) in social media?
  • What is identity theft?
  • How do you keep your postal mail secure?


  • What are the different kinds of interest rates, and in which situations are they used?
  • What are realistic rates of return on investments?
  • How do you set out a good investment plan for your young adult years?
  • What is inflation?
  • How does the stock market work, and why is it important?

It seems like a lot of information, and we’re just scratching the surface. But if you tackle each topic one at a time, even one a week, you’ll get through them in no time.

Don’t hesitate to draw in authorities on each subject if you can. Take your teen with you to the bank or to one of PayDayHawaii’s locations and go over the options available to them. Know someone who is a manager? Ask them to talk to your teen about hiring practices. You get the idea!

And of course, if financial classes ARE offered at school, make sure your teenager takes advantage of them. In Hawaii, some high schools do offer classes on basic finance, like these at President William McKinley High School (scroll down to the Business Learning Center section).

Other resources:
It All Adds Up, a website about personal finance for teenagers
JumpStart, another personal finance website for students offers quite a few handy financial calculators

There are also quite a few books on personal finance for kids, and some may be available at your library, or for purchase. Here’s one available at Amazon: The Complete Guide to Personal Finance for Teenagers and College Students


Good luck!

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