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Personal finance

How to talk to your teen about money

August 2, 2021

Whether it’s their allowance or their first paycheque, learning to spend it wisely can be a source of stress or concern for young people. For parents, finding the right time and the right way to talk about it can seem like a challenge.

But according to Sophie Miron, financial education advisor and accredited instructor for the Personal Finance: I’m in Charge! program for young people aged 16 to 25, “Young people want to talk about money! They don’t learn about it at school anymore, so they usually feel incompetent and uncomfortable with the subject.”

As a parent, you know that good habits are developed early on. The same is true when it comes to managing money. Sophie Miron knows what she’s talking about. She teaches people about money on behalf of Carrefour jeunesse emploi (CJE) de l’Outaouais, whose mission is to improve the lives of young people.

Here are Sophie’s 5 tips for talking to your teen about money:

1. Start with what’s important to them  

If you start out talking about budgets, your chat can end up feeling like a lecture. Instead, talk about things that are important to your teen, like a trip, the prom or buying a car.

“A conversation that focuses on their own dreams and goals will seem more relevant to them. After that, you could talk about your own experiences and only then, get into the technicalities of finances,” says Sophie.

2. Break the taboo and talk about it!

Why not start a debate around the supper table to get the discussion going?

“I start by talking to them about credit, then relate it to hyperconsumerism. That opens the door to talking about everything else: saving, responsible consumption., and so on,” says Sophie.

3. Identify a tangible goal

There’s nothing like having an exciting, tangible goal to explain the importance of saving.

Ask your teen to identify something they really want that’s achievable in a reasonable period of time.

Not only will they feel proud when they succeed—the positive experience will help them grasp the concepts involved in saving money. After that, it will be easier for them to save for something bigger.

4. Be open and acknowledge the emotional aspect

Money is a sensitive topic for teens and parents alike. That’s why it’s important to be open and not judge, keeping in mind that young people are going through an experimental phase.

“That helps you keep the communication lines open and maintain a certain ‘arm’s length control,” Sophie explains.

According to Sophie, sharing your bad experiences is also healthy: “I start with the assumption that no one wants to have money issues. So if young people are warned about being financially irresponsible, they’re less likely to make that mistake themselves.”

Help your teen apply some of the math they learned in school to everyday life:

  • Give them a back-to-school budget and challenge them to stick to it.
  • Help them create their first budget by using the Your budget tool.
  • Get them involved in the planning, budgeting and cost aspects of family decisions (trips, outings, buying a game console, etc.).
  • Explain your credit card or cell phone statement to them.
  • Show them how advantageous saving regularly can be: $10 a week adds up to $520 a year plus interest!

5. Help them learn by doing

Talking about it is one thing. But doing it is even better!

To help your teen learn more about managing money, we have a host of resources and tips available to you. Feel free to check them out.