Teenagers are pretty savvy when it comes to their mobile phone plan, a skill that can help provide them with the financial tools they need as adults.
By the time children are in year nine, they may be managing their own mobile, thinking about getting a part-time job or saving up for a big purchase.
“They’re starting to operate in the world of money a lot more,” says Wendy Mason, head of the Commonwealth Bank Foundation and its financial education programs.
Ms Mason says the bank’s Start Smart financial education program ramps up for years nine to 11, including covering skills around getting their first job and presenting for work or being able to use work experience to set themselves up for the future.
“A young person’s reality when they’re in secondary school is really that they’re starting to prepare to move out into the big wide world.
“A parent can really help them to do the components of earning, saving and spending in a way that they can actually help set themselves up for success.”
Ms Mason says teenagers are good at shopping around to get a mobile plan that matches their behaviour, such as if they favour texting their friends, and many are on pre-paid plans which eliminates the problem of troublesome bills.
“There are still some stories about young people getting in trouble but I think often young people are incredibly savvy around their phone.”
Teenagers may have a separate savings account for those bigger purchases and start keeping track of where their money is going.
“Budgeting and not spending more than you earn start to become real for young people at that age, and mum and dad not necessarily being always the ATM, trying to encourage young people to start spending some of their own hard-earned cash,” Ms Mason says.
She says teenagers will be starting to socialise and want to have some money to do all those things.
“Each family will be different as to how that negotiation occurs, whether it’s all still coming from mum and dad or whether they’re having to save some of it themselves.” Ms Mason says equipping teens with the right financial skills can have a huge economic benefit in the long-term by helping to lift financial literacy levels.
She says parents can sometimes be a bit afraid of teaching their children about money.
“It’s a bit like teaching young people about eating in a healthy way or exercising. Money’s just another part of wellbeing. It doesn’t need to be something that sits out on its own. Parents are doing a lot of this stuff well and should back themselves.”
MONEY CONCEPTS FOR TEENAGERS
* Cash is better than credit
* Credit is money you borrow and pay back with interest
* Good to have savings in case of a money emergency
* Check for part-time jobs that you are being paid the correct amount and if paying tax
* Keep track of mobile phone spending
* A budget helps work out how you spend your money
Source: ASIC’s MoneySmart.