Teaching children and teens how to manage their money

Teaching children and teens how to manage their money

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18 2012 6:30 a.m. MST

Maddy Condie takes Jerry Christensen's financial literacy class at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News


Learning how to manage money is an acquired skill that many adults have a difficult time achieving. That makes it even more difficult for the children who follow to grasp money lessons they'll need to succeed.

But savvy young people, with the help of school programs and parents willing to make a sacrifice, are learning how to avoid letting money manage them.

"My parents taught me from a young age that you only buy what you need," said Brighton High School junior Hayley Hadfield. She has had a checking account for two years and it has allowed her to learn valuable lessons about how to manage her personal finances.

Junior Maddy Condie said the lesson her parents have tried to impress upon her is to buy just what you can afford.

"When I get money I buy things, but I buy with cash, not credit cards," she said.

Junior Zane Godbe said he puts aside most of what he makes at his after-school job except for the bare minimum he can make it on between paydays — a lesson he learned from his father.

"He said take out just what you need to survive for two weeks, then put the rest in the bank unless you really need it," he said. "Fifty dollars or less is more than perfect for me."

The money he saves is used to make car repairs or other necessities that come up.

"It's teaching me that if I spend all my money, that I'll be flat broke and won't have any cash," he said. Without that disciplined approach, he would not have had the money to address needs that unexpectedly came up, he said.

Senior Zoe Freebairn was a lifeguard during the summer and found out just how quickly cash can disappear if you don't budget wisely.

"I made a thousand dollars and it was gone in a month," she said. "I just spent money every day. If you don't pay attention, it can go really fast."

Monitoring your account balance is very important, she acknowledged.

"I did overdraw … spent more than I had," Freebairn said. "I had to pay all these overdraft fees. It was amazing!"

Managing money

All four teens are students in the first period financial literacy class taught by Jerry Christensen at Brighton High School.

Since the 2008 school year, all Utah high school students are required to take financial literacy courses to graduate. The curriculum includes information on money management, investing, interest rates and consumer debt, Christensen said.

"We teach how to make proper decisions using all available information, not based on emotion or peer pressure, advertising or marketing," he said.

His goal is to help the students avoid making mistakes that can be costly for years to come.

"If I can save them 10 years of pain through their 20s because they made bad decisions when they were 19 or 20 … by getting into too many loans, then I've probably done my job," he said.

The class also covers information on identifying scams, which are becoming more prevalent in the easy information access age of iPhones, Facebook and online shopping.

The students are taught how to avoid fraud and how to deal with it if you fall prey to a scam, "whether it's investment scams, paying too much for car repairs or any other kind of service work," he said.

"We have a saying: 'Manage your money so that your money won't manage you,' " Christensen said.

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