The Rich Teen

Odds are you’ve never thought of your teen as “rich”.   In fact, you are probably wondering, as I did, if my child even understands the “value of a dollar”.  Oh how I wish I had a nickel for each time my mom said that to me. 

Does any of this sound familiar?  If so, rest assured it is a conversation going on all over the country for parents of teens. 

Note: at the bottom of this article you will see 3 steps to helping your child move the needle in this huge learning category.   

But more to the point, let’s get to that word “rich”.  Whether rich is having a cool million in the bank, or having enough to keep yourself clothed and fed, it’s all wrapped up in the same mindset:  controlling your money. 

Financial Follies

If I could wave my magic wand and get what I want for you out of this article, it would be to not only educate and convince you of the importance to starting your teen on learning the power (both good and bad) of money but also to give you enough information to get started.   

Having been in your shoes, I know how overwhelmed it is just to survive being the parent of a teen . . . in high school . . . with hormones raging . . . GPA  issues . . .  college costs . . .  and more.

What do our kids worry about?  A study done by H & R Block determined that 80% of our kids worry about money, college costs, and getting in over their head with debt.  (Hat Tip:  Credit Donkey and H & R Block)

How can we parents help?  Introduce projects that build these skills, and to do it while they are still at home with us.  The big "get" here?  Self-confidence and knowing that they ultimately can "figure things out" when challenges arise.  Isn't that what all parents want?  Your kids knowing they have a basis of experience upon which to draw when issues arise?  

But how?  Make a list of skills they need and start the learning process.  I’ve emphasized the power and freedom parents experience when they actually make a list of what to cover with their child in this last season with them still home. 

The skill of managing money should be on every parent’s list.
I suspect it is on your list for your teen.
It’s time.
The season at hand works in our favor!
This strategy below is simple. (thank goodness)
It’s a baby-step strategy disguised as FUN for your teen.
Yes, there is a subliminal message in it but your teen doesn’t need to know that!


The holiday season practically screams spend money, spend money.  Buy, buy, buy.  Gifts, gifts, gifts.  And in fact, giving is fun – when done within proper constraints.

Everyone loves giving, and believe it or not, that “everyone” includes your child. 
So let’s capitalize on that.

This plan involves 3 phases:

  • Phase I: “The Sit Down”
  • Phase II: “The Teen Activity”
  • Phase III: “The Post Mortem”

As a parent, we will tend to skip Phase I and III.  Please don’t.  That’s where your gems of wisdom will be planted in your child.

PHASE I: “The Sit Down”

This fun (yes it really is) first sit down with your teen is to help them plan their gift giving.   If they are giving the gifts, they should be the one to plan for it AND to pay for it.  Thru their allowance, side gigs, money from Aunt Sophie or any other method, let it be their money that you work with. (if you want to introduce chores over and above the call of traditional duty to get $ in their hands, you’ve got a winner idea there, too). 

Let’s pause right here for a minute.  I am not saying that “real money” needs to be spent.  It doesn’t.  Whether baking gifts, making gifts, or volunteering their time to wash someone’s car all constitute gifts.   Then flip this plan to represent the time and idea devoted to each person on their gift giving list.

  1. Have them list all they want to give a gift to.
       * Friends       *Family     *Teachers, coaches and the like
  2. Have YOUR TEEN determine how much money he/she has to spend (see comments above).
  3. Have them ALLOCATE their $$ to each person on the list OR have them jot down what they might create/volunteer for each person. 

Now hang with me here. 

After they do this, they just might find out that they have more gift needs than money. That’s your first pot of educational gold. 

They are going to have to get creative just like we do when this happens. 
Let THEM work it out ON PAPER. 

1st Fun Extra Credit Idea:  Encourage them to look for discounts, sales, and coupons.  In this season you’ll find rebates, two-fers and more.    The skills learned from this?  Asking questions and figuring things out for themselves grows self-confidence.   Who can’t use more of that, right parents?

2nd Fun Extra Credit Idea:   Is your teen a social butterfly with lots of friends they want to buy something for?  Then encourage that set of friends to draw names.  The skills from this?  Leadership, communication, and organization.  

Phase II:  “The Teen Activity

No surprise here, really.  They execute the spending plan THEY created.  You’ve got a big buy-in already because they are the author. 

They go shopping, planning or making . . .  depending upon what they put in their plan.

Tip 1:  They must RECORD what they spend right beside what they planned on spending.  Did they go over?  Then other spending elsewhere must reduce.  Did they spend less?  What should they do with that windfall?

Tip 2:  I don’t know the age of your teen and their responsibility level, but keeping an eye on where they shop in terms of reputability is key here.

Extra Credit Learning:  Part of their determining what to buy is WHERE to buy it.  They need to understand return policies, they need to keep the receipt in an envelope (or record it in an app or create a sub-category in their email folder for these receipts). 

Are you noticing the skills they are gleaning – all because it’s time to buy (or make) gifts?  What smart parents we are.  Stealth learning.  Wow.

Phase III:  “The Post Mortem

In the traditional business side of my life, I learned really quickly that every major project MUST go thru a review when it’s all said and done.  That’s where the real payoff happens.  So let’s discuss our “post mortem” plan. 

You should expect your teen to have their records complete.  What they bought, how much they spent, where they bought it, and a record of the receipt. 

So you pull out the list with your teen and CONGRATULATE them.  If your name is on the gift list, don’t be like one of my kids a few years ago.   One of my kids snuck down the stairs the night before Christmas to open their gifts and to their credit they admitted (years later) that Christmas morning wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had been in years past.  So, you might find your name on your teen’s gift list.  Let them keep that a secret. 

  • Step 1: Tell them what a great job they did.  (there must have been something that they did well, right?)
  • Step 2: Ask them what they learned.  (huge, don’t skip this one)
  • Step 3: What would they do differently?
  • Step 4: Get them to explain a return policy or discount or some “score” they made while shopping or volunteering their time or how they made more cookies for Suzy and had enough left over for Bob.  I don’t know what this will look like for you, but your goal?   

Extra Credit Learning Pt 1:  Consider moving them to a new financial project if they are ready.  Is there a family day that you are willing to let them plan?  Where to eat, which museum to visit and how to get tickets more cheaply? 

Extra Credit Learning Pt 2:  Do you want to help build their self-confidence?  Silly question on my part.  What parent doesn’t?  Then clearly point out what skills you saw your child learn/use/execute.  They need to know what they’ve accomplished and often they just don’t see it.  They will just think “yep, I bought the gifts”.

Skills Learning Summary

It’s the last season with your precious teen.  You might lay awake at night worrying what you haven’t covered yet with them.  I often wonder if insomnia in the dictionary shouldn’t be defined as “parents worrying about kids”!

Hopefully you’ve made or are considering making a list of what’s left to teach them.  These learning opportunities sneak up on we parents and if we aren’t careful, we don’t even see them for what they are – a golden pot of gold with no leprechaun guarding those shiny coins.  They are ours for the taking.

What skills did your teen learn in this exercise:  self-starter, researcher, judgement decisions, money management, possibly negotiations, and more. 

Oh, there is something else you need to know. You are an amazing parent for caring enough to do this and also to keep up with what your child still needs to learn while they are under your roof.  You are a rare breed.  You embody what it means to be a parent – right up until well, forever. 

As this year winds down, we send our best to you.  Yes, we do have days left but from one parent to another, I know this season is brimming with possibilities and frustrations all melted into 4 weeks. 

We leave you with our heartfelt conviction:

You CAN Have Success in the Middle of it ALL

FYI:  If you want help on what to teach your "nearly flown"?  Here's an 8-STEP Parent Guide chock full of 8 teaching points with links and tips - created by and for parents previously in your shoes.  Just tell us where to send it.

Have a great week.  Go out and make it a wonderful day with your kids.   I will do the same!

Bye for now.

Pam, JellyGeneration

Who Is JellyGeneration?

Pam Hardison, MBA, BBA in Finance and Business Education, has created and co-owned a national mail order catalog which at one point was the 21st fastest growing customer base in the nation.  As a mom of two college-post college daughters, considers it a privilege and to meet other students and parents along the same road.   After teaching high school and college students for years, her commitment to helping them with topics most schools can't cover is the light that drives her.  

Holly Powers, Attorney-At-Law (Jameson & Powers, P.C.) has been actively practicing law since 1985 and is a shareholder with the law firm of Jameson & Powers, P.C.  The firm specializes in transactional law, health care law, and general business law.  Holly has taught students precepts concerning the legal world for over 10 years.  With 4 children, she understands what teens need to know and has a passion to help others faced with teens and aging parents.

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