Skip to main content
Plan Well, Retire Well

Help your child be a good financial manager

Two teen boys in a store

Do you have youth and teens in your life? This summer may be an excellent time for them to learn the skills and knowledge they need to be good financial managers as adults.

Knowing we want to help develop positive skills and knowledge is one thing; being able to do it is another! Each child comes with their own personality and approach to daily challenges. As a parent, I realize I'm only one of many factors that influence my children. Lecturing youth about what they should do or don't do with money is probably not very effective. What can we do so that youth grow into adults with strong financial capability skills?

Pulling together research from many fields, we now have a new youth financial pedagogy that can help guide us from the time our children are preschoolers through their late teens. Essentially the new framework suggests we help youth:

  1. improve planning and problem-solving skills,
  2. create positive financial habits,
  3. learn to compare and contrast choices, and
  4. practice financial decision-making.

You can read more in detail about this research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How can we put this into practice in our daily lives? First, from the time our youth begin elementary school we can help them develop planning and problem-solving skills. To manage money, we need to be able to plan, focus our attention, and remember details. In a similar manner, youth can learn to plan their day, stay focused on tasks, think before acting, and prioritize what they want to do.

To develop money skills, it can be helpful for children to have ways to earn money at home. Consider developing a list of household chores that you are willing to pay your children to do.

For young children, chores need to be manageable and ones that can be done relatively quickly. Examples:

  • put old newspapers in recycling,
  • clean the front of kitchen appliances, and
  • fold towels.

Older children can manage more complex chores such as:

  • wash a car,
  • organize a hall closet,
  • weed a flower bed, or
  • tidy a junk drawer.

To save up money to buy something special, youth will need to:

  1. plan how much work they need to do,
  2. stay focused on their goal, and
  3. prioritize between buying something "now" versus saving up for a future purchase.

Keep in mind that "future" may be one or two weeks for very young children. By middle school, youth likely will be able to plan for spending in more than one category and be able to research their larger purchases to find the best match for their values and goals.

Take time to talk to youths about the difference between needs and wants. Explain how your values influence what you choose to purchase, and what you don't.

Daily life provides lots of opportunities for us to talk to children about money and for them to practice money skills. Here are ideas to consider:

  • While at the grocery store, let preschoolers help shop for items pictured on coupons. Talk about how coupons help save money.
  • Older children can compare the cost of an eight-ounce serving of different beverages.
  • Let a child plan a family outing or event that fits within a budgeted amount. Encourage creative ways to do fun activities with a small amount of money.
  • If you have a larger purchase, ask middle and high school youth to research different options. Direct them towards trustworthy sources of information.

These types of activities help youth learn how to compare and contrast choices. Your conversations about their activities will help reinforce positive financial habits.

Providing opportunities for youth to practice and learn about financial management means that they will become confident in their ability to achieve their financial goals. Youth need confidence in their abilities to become good financial managers as adults.


Updated and reposted from July 2018 blog post. 

Photo by Big Element

young boy with jar of coins
Money as You Grow Website

Wonderful website with helpful activities and conversation starters to help your child reach age-appropriate money milestones!

Young person balancing on a rocket ship
Teens and Money: No Failure to Launch

In this Family Financial Feuds podcast, Extension Educator Camaya Wallace Bechard and Kathy Sweedler discuss the topic of teens and money, and explore some tricks and tips for talking to your teen about money, how we can support money management in teens, as well as current research on the socialization of teens surrounding money.

Picture Kathy Sweedler
Meet the Author

Kathy Sweedler provides personal finance online education with Illinois Extension. Kathy’s emphasis is to encourage people to be confident in their financial decisions, and to help them explore new ways of thinking about and managing money. When Kathy is not engaged in Extension work, she is often traveling and piecing together family genealogy. Genealogy is a puzzle, not that different from managing money!

Sign up for Illinois Extension’s Personal Finance E-Newsletter, sent quarterly, to receive updates about blog posts and events.