3 Common Money Questions From Parents of Teenagers

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Raising money-smart teens is hard work. It's especially tough in a world clamoring for your teen's attention—and dollars.

You may feel stressed. You may have questions. That’s understandable. To help you in your journey, we’ve answered three common questions from parents who don’t just want to raise good kids, but responsible adults who handle money well.

My daughter wants a credit card. What should I do?

Credit cards just tempt you to buy things you can’t afford with money you don’t have. Money-smart kids save cash for purchases instead of buying on credit.

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Practical tip: If your teenager asks for a credit card, talk about what they want to buy and show them how much the purchase will really cost once they’ve paid off all the interest. Take it a step further by helping them create a list of short-term savings goals. Casting vision and practicing patience now will serve them well when they’re on their own.

My son isn’t a natural giver. How can I teach him to be generous with his money?

Growing up in a culture obsessed with “me, me, me” makes it hard to think about others. So how do you teach your teen to be generous? Rachel Cruze says it like this: More is caught than taught. If you tell your kids to give but don’t model generosity yourself, the message will be lost. Make giving a priority, and your kids will notice.

Practical tip: Find ways to help your teen focus on others. For example, send them on a mission trip. Seeing how other people live, especially in struggling parts of the world that lack our culture’s comforts and conveniences, can transform the way kids view the world—and themselves.

Related: You Can’t Change the World Without Doing This First

My daughter is going to college in a few years but I can’t afford tuition. How can she go to school without student loans?

This is a hard pill for most parents to swallow, but college is not an entitlement. You’re responsible for a lot in your teen’s life: food, clothes, security and so forth. But a college education isn’t on that list. If you can help, that’s great. If not, don’t feel guilty.

But whether you help or not, your kid can go to college without student loans. The debt-free college plan comes down to a few basic things: planning, school choice, scholarships, work, and a reasonable lifestyle. If they stick to the plan, your teen can avoid the financial nightmares that are swallowing others in their generation.

Practical tip: Help your child choose a school they can afford. College is not a right; it is a purchase. Treat it like a big purchase and shop around. Keep in mind that in-state tuition is generally cheaper than what you’d find across a state line. Your teen should also start looking for scholarships. It’s easy to blow off a $200 scholarship, but investing 30 minutes to fill out an application and write an essay could mean earning $200 in half an hour. That’s a better hourly wage than most part-time jobs! Speaking of part-time jobs, most kids who balance work and classes actually get better grades, so encourage your kid to work. 

Related: Top 6 Things to Know Before Going to College

Teaching your teenagers to set goals, practice generosity and work hard will help them find financial wisdom and success as adults. It’s never too late to point your kids—even teens—in the right direction.

To help you with the financial challenges of parenting, Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze created Smart Money Smart Kids, a six-week home study program based on the New York Times best-seller of the same title. You can learn more about teaching your kids to work hard, spend wisely and give generously—all with a spirit of contentment that will transform their lives.

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