Teaching Teens About Money in the Digital Age

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What are teens learning from their parents about good financial habits in these tough times?

Well, Mom and Dad, whatever they are learning, they are most likely learning it from you. A new poll says that, while teens may idolize celebrities and feel pressure from peers, when it comes to managing money, parents have the most influence on the way their children save and spend.

The poll – conducted by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s financial literacy web site TheMint.Org – offers parents a timely reminder during Financial Literacy Month in April. The job of raising money-smart children is yours. And while that’s a tough assignment, it’s not impossible.

Experts suggest two approaches to the matter: Create conversations about money with your teens; and model good money habits. But how does a parent accomplish both of these things – with teenagers no less – in the so-called Connected Age?

How about on Facebook? We know teens prefer Facebook to other social media.1 In fact, Facebook just might provide the perfect forum for Mom and Dad to communicate their own good money habits to their teens.

Consider these potential status updates, posted on a parent’s wall:

On earning: “I just signed up for a continuing education course in my field. Dad and I have learned that the more you learn, the more you earn. Really. We can show you the numbers.”

On saving: “Dad’s getting set to pay bills. Guess who got paid first? Us! Every month, since the kids were born, we’ve put aside a certain amount of money to go towards their education, to fund our retirement, and to cover emergencies. (I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that little but unfortunate incident from a while back!)”

On spending: “I’m at my favorite store, right now. (Just to browse, of course.) Though I DO have my eye on several awesome bargain buys in the slightly used DVD aisle. *Sigh* I’ve only got enough cash in my pocket for – maybe – one of them. So only one I’ll buy!”

On owing: “I’m paying off our credit card bills – in full. It hasn’t always been easy. But we’ve learned that as we’ve used our cards responsibly, we have been able to build a good credit rating. It’s the reason we were able to get the loan to buy this house.”

On tracking: “We’re looking at our monthly expenses – our bottom line is positive and things are looking good for vacation this year! The difference from last year is the way we’ve diligently tracked and rid ourselves of those non-essentials we could do without. (Yep – we’re including Mom’s and Dad’s own sacrifices here!)”

On giving: “We’re going to be tutoring at the school tonight. It has been such a pleasure seeing the children there discover the joy of reading. BTW, thanks to our own kids for contributing all those favorite books of theirs that we used to read to them when they were growing up. I think we can all be proud that our family name will be included among the school’s best patrons.”

On investing: “We’re celebrating! We just met with our financial representative about our long-term investments and it looks as if our diversification strategy has paid off. What’s ‘diversification’? It’s when we put our money that we don’t need for emergencies or everyday expenses in different places, like stocks, bonds, etc., to lessen the risk.”

On safeguards: “We’re getting set to sleep well. We’ve done all the things we need to do to help protect ourselves – our home, our health, our car, our family, our income – against the unexpected events, or losses, that occur in life.”

Only in my dreams, you say? Maybe so. But go ahead, take the first step. It’s just a simple matter of getting your teen to add you as a Facebook friend. 😉

Article prepared by Northwestern Mutual with the cooperation of Robert Stolz. Robert Stolz is a Financial Representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network based in Beavercreek, Ohio, for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. To contact Robert Stolz, please call 937-427-7185 or e-mail him at [email protected]

1 “Social Media And Young Adults,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, Feb. 3, 2010

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