What subjects should you include when homeschooling your teen through high school? Answering this question can and does fill entire books. Personally, I think at least some of the subjects should be related to your teen’s interests as much as anything else. But there’s one subject that should be mandatory: personal finance.
With unemployment and underemployment becoming more common, it’s imperative that we send our kids out into the world with some financial savvy so they can wisely manage what money they’re able to earn. And we have the resources to do the job.
As parents, we put the “why” behind the “how.” It’s one thing to say that teens should set some money aside every month and save it for a rainy day. It’s quite another to tell the story of how your dad and his siblings saved almost every nickel they made as teenagers so they could help their single mom buy the family’s first house. That was a real-life situation I shared with my teens; I’m sure you have your own. (Sometimes true stories don’t have a happy ending…..every family these days knows someone with a cautionary financial story to tell.)
We also have great resources available to use with our teens. For example, we don’t need textbook charts showing how credit card interest is calculated. We likely have the credit card bills that show how little a minimum payment is required for the purchases we’ve made each month. We can show the high rate of interest charged on balances, the equivalent of paying a 22% (or greater) premium on everything we buy…..thus saving us 22% when we pay off the bill each month. (Even if you’re not a credit card user, the reason for that decision should certainly be shared with your teens, if you haven’t done so already.)
Textbooks might also include case studies of make-believe families with examples of income and expenses. However, we can place a month’s worth of real paycheck stubs on one side of the table and a month’s worth of bill stubs on the other (utilities, mortgage payment or rent, car payments, etc.) and let our teens do the math. Real life has much more impact than case studies of strangers.
Today’s economy offers many sad stories of those who relied on credit to make up the difference between their income and their desires…. to their detriment. Go over some of these stories in your newspapers and online and discuss them with your teen. Use them as examples of why it’s so important to live within your means.
I’m sure you can think of other ways to teach your teen your view of personal finance. I designed similar projects for my teens* that they worked on, and I included them on their high school transcripts with the title Life Prep (Personal Finance). No one questioned it, and it certainly didn’t prevent my kids from being admitted to college.
You might be hesitant about sharing your personal financial information with your teens. If so, consider that what you teach them about this subject will greatly affect them for their entire lives. Making smart financial decisions when young can benefit a person for years. Unfortunately, messing up because of financial ignorance can hurt a person for years.
Sharing information and opinions about personal finance is every parent’s job. It’s too important to leave out, especially in times like we’re living in right now. Homeschooling parents have the time and opportunity to do this. The time to begin is right now.
*found in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers