How to help your middle or high schooler set a savings goal
You can instill a savings habit that will serve them well into adulthood.
Most parents know that kids are notoriously lousy at appreciating delayed gratification. That makes teaching them to save money a challenge, since the payoff isn’t immediate. One of the best ways to teach your middle or high school student about saving is to help her put those concepts into practice by encouraging her to set a savings goal—something she’s likely to do over and over throughout her life.
With just a few simple steps, your middle or high schooler can be well on her way to accomplishing her goal and learning a skill that serves her well for years to come.
Start with a relatively short-term goal—the more distant or abstract the goal, the harder it is to visualize. Encourage your child to work toward something tangible such as a new video game, designer jeans, or spending money for an upcoming family vacation. Think items teens can save for within a few weeks or months, quickly reaping the rewards.
After determining the cost of the targeted item, you and your teen can calculate how long it would take to save that amount based on her allowance, pay rate at her job or current savings. From there you can figure how much she needs to save each week.
For bigger-ticket items, consider matching contributions. Matching rewards your child’s savings efforts by helping her reach her goal in less time. If she wants a new phone that costs $200, for example, you could ask her to save for half and agree to cover the remaining $100.
Encourage your child to set aside a portion of any money she earns or receives, whether it’s from an allowance, gifts or paychecks from an after-school job. Your teen might decide, for example, to save a fixed amount each week or month or to put 20 percent of every dollar she earns or receives directly into savings. Depending on your child’s savings goals, you can show her how putting away an even greater percentage helps her reach her goals more quickly.
Piggy banks work for young children, but middle and high school students can think about opening savings accounts. You can explain to your child that besides helping protect her money, savings accounts build her savings with interest. It’s important to remind her that these accounts are designed expressly for saving, and they could be penalized for frequently withdrawing.
Some high schoolers with jobs may even be able to automate their savings using direct deposit. Track progress together Encourage your child to take advantage of the service, if available—many accounts allow teens to allocate a portion of their pay to a checking account and another chunk to a savings account. It’s yet another way to reinforce good savings habits.
Another way children can save more is to spend less. That’s probably intuitive for you, but a great way to help kids understand is to create a budget. You could encourage children to record their monthly earnings (after savings) and expenses in a journal. Also ask them to record why they decide to make each purchase. That helps them to start thinking about priorities and the difference between essential and discretionary spending: the must-haves vs. the nice-to-haves.
A high schooler might not even be aware she spends $30 a week on snacks until she sees it in black and white. She may very well decide it’s worth ditching the after-school fast food runs if she sees she could contribute another $120 a month toward her goal.
Once a savings goal is set and savings mechanisms are in place, monitor your child’s progress to show her the headway she’s making. You could do this at regular intervals, using family meetings, if you hold them, or just check in from time to time when you’re at the dinner table. Your child can see how her steady contributions— even small ones—make a difference over time.
- For middle schoolers, consider using visuals to illustrate progress. Remind your child of her goal by place a picture of the item she’s saving for in your kitchen or on her dresser. You could also create and update a chart tracking her progress.
- With high schoolers, you might sit down together once a month to review bank accounts
You can use that time to evaluate her success and discuss potential adjustments—working more hours at her job or saving even more of her paycheck—to help her reach her goals faster.
Whether it’s a gadget or a car, setting and reaching a savings goal is a rewarding process that can give older children a sense of empowerment and accomplishment while building the basic skills they need to navigate their financial futures.
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