3 Essential Money Attitudes to Instill in Teenagers
Parenting is hard, even when we know what to do. So, it’s no wonder we find teaching our teenagers about money extremely challenging. Most of us haven’t had the luxury of being financially educated ourselves. Add to that our perennial shortage of time, patience and mental bandwidth and you’ve got the makings of an explosive mixture.
One that doesn’t go well with young humans and their surging hormones.
So, while I highly recommend outsourcing the nuts and bolts of financial education to trusted and reputed professionals, there are some key money attitudes that we parents can instill in our teens to help things along.
These money attitudes are ways to teach our teens about money, without explicitly talking about money. No arduous talks about budgeting appropriately. No lengthy discourses on spending wisely. Most of this anyway fall on deaf ears.
These money attitudes sow the seeds of financial success, by encouraging and training behaviors that are aligned with this future. They subtly hardwire these behaviors so that they are deeply engrained and become second nature to our teens.
Like every other aspect of parenting, it’s never easy. Like every other aspect of parenting, we won’t always get it right. But like every aspect of parenting, we need to keep at it consistently for any good to come of it.
Money Attitude 1: Train them to think long-term
This means getting them to envision their future. This helps them gain clarity on different areas of their lives and what they most value. Getting teens to focus on the long term helps them make the right decisions in the short term. It puts their effort in perspective. It also gives them a powerful WHY. One that will sustain them during the hard and often times painful sacrifices they will have to make to achieve that long-term vision.
And thinking long-term isn’t easy. Especially given society’s penchant for instant gratification. Almost every advertising message and most of their negative peer pressure will drag them in exactly the opposite direction – glorifying the present and looking for quick short-term gains.
It’s crucially important we explain to our teenagers that many of the most meaningful outcomes in their lives will take far longer than they might expect. And will require more from them than they might expect. They need to be ready to play the long game, if they want to win.
This is arguably the most important mindset for our teens to cultivate because much of their future financial success will boil down to how well they are able to master this attitude of long-term thinking.
Money Attitude 2: Get them to understand that the best investment they can make is in themselves.
Teenagers are keenly interested in investing. They see that as a gateway to riches and wealth. While that might be true, there are so many caveats. Caveats that our teens have no knowledge about because what they see and hear in the media is the noise and fluff that obscures the truth and reality of most investing journeys.
It’s important for us to help them understand that they first need to invest in themselves. In their knowledge, in reading, in courses, in their physical and mental health and in developing their self-awareness.
And this investment will pay rich dividends, in many aspects of their lives, not just financially. It helps build character and skills that will enable them to recognize and avail of more opportunities. It lays the groundwork for a successful future so that these teens are prepared when their lucky break comes.
It also serves to boost confidence in their abilities and their self-esteem. This becomes especially important at a time when many teenagers tend to suffer from a distinct lack of these two qualities.
It also gives them agency over their own learning and trains them to be life-long learners; which is a trait that’s become indispensable in today’s fast paced and ever-changing world.
Money Attitude 3: Help them cultivate an attitude of gratitude & generosity
Gratitude is a powerful driver of success. Research shows that the benefits of practicing gratitude include overall happiness, stronger relationships, higher self-esteem and a better outlook on school and life. Benefits we can all agree our teens need.
And there is research to prove that gratitude is linked to financial wellbeing.
Psychologist Nathaniel Lambert’s work has found that stronger feelings of gratitude are associated with lower materialism. There is less desire to buy stuff when we’re grateful and happy with our lives. Gratitude increases contentment and reduces the desire to overspend. It also helps teens avoid impulsive financial choices; and that directly corelates with improved financial wellbeing.
Artfully incorporating gratitude into a conversation with teens takes a bit of creativity, but the effects of any gratitude-building activity are fascinating, especially when teens see for themselves how powerful it can be.
An attitude of generosity too is important to impart to our teens. Interestingly, a team of researchers led by Kimmo Eriksson combed through data from the USA, UK and 23 European countries and found that in addition to healthier bodies, minds and relationships, generous people actually make more money than people who are selfish.
We need to instill a higher consciousness in teens. This is relatively easy to do because most teens today have a finely-honed sense of fairness that is easy to extrapolate into generosity.
So, while the mechanics of teaching teens how to make smarter money decisions is best left to trained experts, there are a few key money attitudes that parents can foster in their teenagers.
These money attitudes detailed above are hugely valuable in their own right but the real magic happens when these attitudes work together. When they overlap, build on and accentuate the benefits of the others. The effect is then compounded and has a remarkable impact on our teenager’s financial wellbeing.
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