Don’t Send Your Kids to College without Using These 2 Tips about Money

The teen years are challenging transition years. Along with the hormonal, emotional, psychological and physical changes, as if that weren’t enough, teens are wrestling with the space between dependence and independence. Many teens express their independence by taking jobs. They begin to fill their pockets with “their” money, money outside the allowance framework, money outside the extra chores they convinced you to pay them for. This money is theirs, given to them by someone else in exchange for skills and/or time.

This raises important questions:

  • What are productive ways to divide the things parents pay for and the things the teenager pays for?
  • What are productive ways to develop habits built around the understanding of the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money©?
  • How can this time of transition progress smoothly to adults with productive habits and behaviors around money?

Susi, a teen girl, initiated a conversation with her parents by saying when she earned more than $150 a month that she would begin to pay for her social activities, some clothes and things she wanted, like an upgraded phone, above her parent’s phone commitment to her. She wanted to feel a sense of responsibility and independence with her money and from her parents.

Peter, a teen boy, decided that his earned money would be put aside for his college personal expenses. He wanted to experience college with a sense of freedom and opportunity on his own and without having to justify his expenditures.

Courtney, a third teen, didn’t want her parents to know anything about what she made and always underreported her earnings to them. She made sure she was paid in cash when she did chores, babysitting or errands for people in her neighborhood. She wanted to have that money to do whatever she wanted to do with it and still have her accustomed allowance and special asks.

Each treated their money differently. There are many more stories of teens with their money. As you can well imagine, how a teen treats and views their money will influence their behaviors and habits as adults.

From the three examples above, the first teen, when she became a young adult, was used to paying for things herself. Her transition from allowance to her own earnings went fairly smoothly. She understood boundaries with money and that what she couldn’t pay for or put a plan together to make happen, she couldn’t purchase.

The second teen amassed a nice little nest egg for his college years. In his freshman year at college he was investing part of his money. He also kept some of his money in savings. He was glad he did because, as he said, he saw a decline in the market during spring semester and it scared him. He thought he wouldn’t have enough for the extras he wanted for the next few years. Maybe money didn’t grow on trees after all…at least not that easily.

The third teen did not see the value in saving for her “College Experience.” Her parents would come up for the money for that. As a young adult in college, she quickly spent her money and asked for additions to her college allowance to fund the pressures of peer acceptance. This created unspoken tension between she and her parents. They couldn’t talk about their resentment at being seen as an unlimited source of funds, while she couldn’t understand why they didn’t understand her needs were important. She did not like money but she liked what it did for her. Money was like water to her, pouring onto and through her hands.

As you look over the landscape of your kids or grandkids role with money, take a moment to consider what you want them to know about money, their money. Here a couple of tips for you to use with your teens.

  • Create an opportunity to talk to them about what they want their stewardship with money to look like and what initial steps or further steps they can take to make that happen.
  • Talk to them about how they will use, track and celebrate their 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money© habits so when they go off on their own, they are prepared stewards of their money.


I would love to hear from you with your questions or comments about your teens’ behaviors with money. Use the following two questions to help you shape your thoughts as you leave a comment here.