Its Time to Learn about Checking Accounts, Banking and Managing Finances!
Many parents struggle with what to teach their kids, and when to teach it to them. Parents are thinking that their children are watching them as they manage checkbooks, finances, and basic things like how to pay for items in stores. While some kids are watching, many could care less! Teaching them about finance, and paying for items, managing checkbooks, and opening their first account needs to be conscious, planned out, and systemically done.
It is hoped that before you try and teach this, that you understand how to manage it first. If that is not the case, well, this might be a good opportunity to learn some new financial management skills yourself! To illustrate the problem, I will use my own personal example. I never had a savings account, much less a checking account until I got my first job. Even then I didn’t open a checking account right away. I just cashed my checks. I didn’t learn about the idea of saving from my folks because they lived paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have a savings account of their own. I had to have help just knowing what to do with that first paycheck when I got it. She assumed that I had been paying attention when they did various financial tasks like this. I hadn’t been!
Managing my finances was a major issue for me because I wasn’t being taught it anywhere in my life. My parents didn’t teach me, and I didn’t learn this in any of my Home Economics classes in High School surprisingly enough. I bombed my first checking account really bad. I didn’t know about fees, costs for checks, and that money had to be in the account for me to write a check. Money responsibility was not something I had at sixteen!
It literally took me a lot of years to get straight how to handle personal finances. Its rough when no one teaches you and you have to wing it and hope it all works out. Fast forward to becoming a parent. I used what I wasn’t taught to build a list for myself on things to make sure my son knew how to do. One of my biggest items was finances. I wanted to help him avoid some of the mistakes his Dad and I made, and issues we struggled with regarding money.
When he hit the age of fourteen we started talking to him about money with intent. By the time he got his first job we were talking about what he was going to do with his earnings, saving, having a checking account, and how to read his pay stub to make sure his hourly wage matched up with his hours. Software is good today, but people input hours, and we wanted him to learn to double check so he didn’t get shorted on his pay.
We did not send him into the bank to open his first account on his own. That was me, and I was terrified! We went with him, and in the lobby we explained what the different people in there did for a job. We talked to him about setting up accounts, talking to the teller, going through the drive through, and ATM’s. Kids have to figure out a lot of things on their own, but life skills like this should be taught to them. Most of them are not watching us manage our lives, they are busy living in their own head space and being crazy teens!
He had questions. Once we got started, he actually thought of things to ask about. We were excited because he was getting it. Sitting down with him to teach him how to write out a check, and then to log it in the register was our next task. I will never forget my Mom sending me to the grocery store down the street to pick up some things with a blank signed check from her. That was back in the days when stores were still allowing things like that. I wrote out the check after reading what each line was for, but really had no idea what I was doing. I messed it up, had to have the store hold my items, go back up the street with the check and get another one! I was mortified, and mad because I had been given something to do without any instructions!
It took time, but he wasn’t left in the dark, confused about something everyone should be taught how to do. They say the proof is in the pudding. My son is a well-balanced young man who currently works in banking while he is in college for a degree in IT. He manages his money well, has been smart about what he buys debt wise, and is extremely cautious about managing his finances. I have come away from this recognizing that managing money is a life skill a lot of kids aren’t being taught, especially not systematically. I guess it might be time to engage with other parents of younger children and pass on a life skills check list with managing money at the top to help others see the importance of non-osmosis teaching!