Many parents get their child started on the path of savings with a piggy bank or a savings account with the local bank. While the school mathematics programs teach the basics of money (like how to make change) there seems to be a lack of education in money management skills – both in school and at home. Most children learn about managing money when they graduate school and move out on their own or begin college, but this learn as you go method has proven damaging to credit for millions of young Americans who learn “the hard way”.
As a parent, you can give your teenager some financial lessons that will help them avoid financial disaster when they leave home and live in the adult-world. Other than teaching them the importance of setting aside a percentage of all income into long term savings, you might also consider opening a checking account with your teenager and teaching them the basics of managing the account. Unfortunately, checking account management skills are not taught in all schools, and it's a skill that is necessary for the financial survival and success of adults.
If your local bank offers a free checking account, you may want to open the account there for convenience. Alternatively, you could use an online bank that pays interest on the balance in the account, does not charge a monthly fee and does not require a minimum balance. Regardless of the account you use, it's important that you don't just open the account and set your young adult loose with it! You'll need to use it as a financial learning tool, and monitor their use of the account for a long time to ensure they understand how it works (with one of the most important factors being that there has to be money in the account to use it!)
Whether you use an online check register style program or the traditional checkbook register, be sure your child understands how to keep track of all transactions and balance the register each month. If your teenager has a job, show them how a portion can be placed into a long term savings account, a portion placed into the checking account for expenses and bills, and a percentage can be kept in the form of cash for entertainment. Do the same with any monetary gifts your child may receive. This is the basics for effectively managing money that most young adults entering the “real world” are lacking the knowledge of – and you will be doing great service by teaching your teenager these skills before they have real need to use them.
When looking for a checking account suitable for a teenager or college student, be sure that:
- they don't require a minimum balance
- they don't charge monthly fees
- you have a choice as to whether or not to link a debit card to the account
- you can link your savings and checking accounts together for free money transfers
- you have access to the account as well, to monitor their usage until they are ready to use it on their own.
- Preferably doesn't charge overdraft fees (there are online accounts that charge a percentage of the overdrawn amount rather than a $30+ overdraft fee per transaction overdrawn)
It may seem unnecessary for your high school student to have a checking account before they graduate or head to college, but opening the account with your child before they leave home gives you time to show them how to use it.