Money Habits Start Early

For the past five or six years I have taught a program at a local community college in Adult Education. Most of my students are coming through my course to get credit for the High School Diploma or their GED. During this time I always ask two questions. First, did your parents talk to you about sex while growing up? Secondly, did your parents talk to you about money growing up? I can count on one hand the amount of students who say their parents did talk to them about either subject. That is a total disservice to these students. The two problems most adults struggle with are sex and money. They plague our society, they are out of control across the country, and rampant in the church. We have to do better about educating our teens about their financial future. Let me give you this thought. At 18 years old teens are given the reins to a student loans that could lead them to debt up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, where as 3 months ago they had to ask permission to go to the bathroom. We have a student loan crisis in this country right now. Over 44 million Americans hold over 1.6 BILLION dollars in student loan debt. The average student loan debt is $36,510 per person. Our teens are going to become one of those statistics if we do not educate them on finances. So where to even start? Lets look at three p[laces to begin.

Save, Spend, and Give. Those are the three places to begin with when laying a personal financial foundation. Everything builds on this concept. Savings morphs into college tuition and later in life morphs into retirement. Spending gives limits. We live in a world where we are constantly told we have to have the next newest thing or this popular item. We love credit and credit is nothing more than accumulated debt. So a rule here is to only spend cash for what you want. Finally, giving. This is the one most people struggle with. Why? Because it is not natural to us. As Christians we are instructed to give a “tithe’ to God through our local church. Tithe is an old Hebrew word for tenth. So 10% of our income should go to our tithe. Now a question I hear often is, “What if I am not a Christian?” and my advice is to find a charity of your choice to give to. Why? Because giving teaches us that our money flows and we control where it flows. Besides, who doesn’t love to help people?

College Tuition. This one is going to be directed at parents. I hear all the time the phrase, “I want my kid to go to _________________.” Now if you as a parent are going to pay your kids way to said college, then you can make that statement. If you are not paying for your kids college, then let me say this gently, help them make the best financial decision that you can. Look close to home. Look for scholarships. Look at a community college. Look at a trade school. Look at your kid. Do not get caught in the trap of “what will people say” nonsense. If your child cannot afford to go to the major university, or if they just are not ready to go off to college, it is not a personal offense to you. We ask college students all the time this question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and the majority have no clue. If that is your student, do not send them to college, send them to work. Let them work, make money, spend, save, and give with that money, and figure out what they want to do. It is why the dropout or “retention rate” at colleges are so low, students are not focused on a bullseye and therefore they hit nothing. Want to know how much a college degree is going to cost your kid? Go here:

Monkey see, monkey do. Sure it is an old saying but it is true when it comes to finances. These kids see how you are with money. Do you talk about it in hushed quite tones. Do you struggle with keeping the lights on? For some unknown reason we just do not talk to our kids about money and expect the school to teach them personal finance. I hear it all the time, ” I wish they taught personal finance at the high school.” Ummm, no you don’t. Most of them are struggling financially. Teach it at home. Model it in your financial behavior, and for goodness sakes, talk to your kids about money. Teach them what a budget is. Talk about IRA’s and 401ks. If you do not know about them yourself, learn. Go here: Just take the time to learn and teach your kids the important financial lessons. Let them know about your money issues both success and failures. I am a 45 year old man, only child, and I have no clue about my parents money situation. I am sure there are or were lessons to learn about finances or investing. So do not let your kids miss out on those lessons because you do not want to talk money or admit that your finances are a huge hot mess. Maybe if you address the problem you will seek solutions, and your kids will watch and learn.

One thought on “Money Habits Start Early

  1. I don’t believe parents should pay for a child’s education (past 12th Grade; private school is worth every penny!!!).

    I paid off my student loans at age 33. The whole idea of parents being financially responsible for adult children (anyone over age 18) usually ends up with a sense of entitlement!


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