So what is the secret for getting teens to budget their money? It doesn’t require a 12-hour course in financial planning or a checkbook. For many teens the path to money management starts with simply knowing their account balance.
Sure that sounds too simple, but sometimes it is the simple changes that have the biggest impact. I’ve seen it work in my own family. As soon as my kids could check their balance on their phone you could see the mental wheels turning. And in dozens of interviews with teens about their spending habits, awareness of their own balance was frequently cited, without prompting, as the trigger that got them thinking about money management.
Once a kid can check their balance at any time they start to plan ahead, and consider how to make their money last. And without even really thinking about it they are starting to budget.
Having access from their mobile phone is the key. Generation Z expects to solve any and all tasks with their phone, and that extends to money. And frankly, that is where a lot of their spending happens as well. Teens are twice as likely to shop online as adults, and they do it from their phones, not a computer.
Unlike their parents and grandparents, teens see cash as the least safe form of currency. And the answer is most certainly not a traditional checking account. Imagine telling a teen, raised in the digital world, that you write down a number on a piece of paper and mail it to someone as a form of payment? And you have no idea when the money will be withdrawn from your account? It sounds absurd. Kids today may never write a physical check in their life, and there is nothing wrong with that.
For many families the right answer is some form of student or teen debit card. Pick one that comes with an app so they can check their balance, and more. Most apps also include savings and budgeting tools. Some even have tools for chores and charitable giving. A good teen debit card should not have transfer minimums or fees, or balance minimums. And it should not allow overdrafts, which saves you from overdraft fees.
– David Lowey
David is a New York-based marketing professional with two teenage boys. He has spent much of the last decade working with teen-related consumer products and services, and has a particular interest in the intersection of mobile technology and behavior. His company, Current (www.current.com), has created a debit card and app for teens (and parents).