7 Things Every Teen Needs to Learn about Personal Finance

Today’s teens are more likely to take their time figuring out what career path they want to pursue, and less likely to move out of mom and dad’s house (at least until they are well into their twenties). However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn about personal finance, and right now. Here are some things they should know:


Every teen should know how to work out a basic budget, detailing monthly income and expenses. This is the starting point for developing an understanding of personal finance, and the foundation upon which other, more complex concepts will be built.

Balancing a Checkbook.

Many bounced checks occur simply because of slacking off in the checkbook balancing department. Teens should establish the habit of balancing their checkbooks early on, so that they will develop into fiscally responsible adults.

Goal Setting.

Many big dreams (a house, car, or European vacation, for example) require big money. Today’s teens live in a world of instant gratification. Unfortunately, that mindset is counterproductive to the accomplishment of big dreams. Therefore, goal setting needs to be an integral part of any teen’s personal finance education. Start with smaller goals, and work up from there.

Steer clear of Easy Money.

Things like payday advance loans and high interest credit cards can be very dangerous for two reasons: they can snowball into excessively high debts in an instant and they can force unsuspecting borrowers into a vicious cycle of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Credit Cards.

While credit cards should never be seen as a standard go-to for everyday living expenses, the reality is that credit cards exist, and teenagers eventually have access to them. If they don’t appreciate the power of a credit card, then they could cause a lot of trouble for themselves down the line. It’s a good idea to begin with a secured credit card, which requires an investment from the teen, and in turn, a serious approach to credit card usage.


Sure, teens don’t have an investment portfolio in which to apply this valuable morsel of insight; however, the concept is one that can be applied to every aspect of personal finance, and it’s one worth teaching teens. For example, it’s never a good idea to have every aspect of personal finance in one basket, so to speak: Employment, health insurance, stock options, and bank accounts should be diversified amongst separate entities, to lessen the risk of financial failure.

It’s never too early to start saving.

Retirement may be a long way off for teens, but that’s only further incentive to start growing their retirement savings now. Even more, the earlier they start saving, the less they have to put away initially. Just a meager set-aside here and there can grow exponentially over time, and that’s a lesson that will keep on giving.

Personal finance is a complex discipline that can take years to master. Teens can get an invaluable one-up by learning about personal finance right now, and these finer points should be a part of that education. They should also click here to use AmartAsset to ask questions of experts when they aren’t sure about the new finance matters they’re learning and discussing with you.

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