Jo Abi on teaching teens about spending: “Lots of conversation”
I still remember the day I got my first pay. This was when casual staff were still paid in cash, handed out in little yellow envelopes once a week. It was $67 and some change.
I ran home brimming with pride, got changed, ran to the shops and spent every penny. I can’t even remember one thing I bought with it.
Suffice to say that it took me a long time to learn how to manage money. It didn’t help that money management wasn’t taught to me in school or discussed with me by anyone. In fact, money lessons were rare when I was a kid.
All I knew was that my parents constantly worried about it because we didn’t have many.
Back then, parents didn’t speak to their children as openly as they do today. Specifically, my parents wouldn’t talk to me about anything, and I talk to my kids about just about everything, including money.
It wasn’t until my kids started entering their teens that I really started teaching them about money. Their father and I divorced and I was independent for the first time. I had started budgeting by using a blue clipboard folder and writing it all down. I knew exactly what I was earning and exactly how much money I needed for each of my bills.
I paid particular attention to taking my son Philip, now 17, through it all in great detail. He was 14 at the time.
“Woah, you earn so much,” he said when I told him what I was getting each month.
Then I explained the bills to him and together we deducted each one. We deducted rent, phone, electricity and gas bills, took money out of food, subscriptions and when he saw what was left he was shocked.
“But Philip, we have a great apartment, lots of money to cover all our bills, we have lots of food to eat and we even have some money left,” I explained. “That’s the goal. That’s the dream.”
When it comes to what we do with this remaining money, we decide together. Sometimes it’s Uber Eats, sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes it’s iPlay… but whatever it is, it’s fun. Because what’s the point of working hard if you’re not having fun?
Earlier this year, Philip got his first job washing cars in the parking lot of our local housekeeping centre. It was hard work and he would come home exhausted.
When we got home, we discussed how much money he was likely to make after a week’s work and what he planned to do with it. We talked about saving some of it, using some of it to buy some tech he was planning on buying, and the rest would be left for any expenses that might arise.
We had already set up his bank account with a credit card attached and he had the app on his phone. He would see his birthday and Christmas money go into his account and had already started saving and spending.
“Because what’s the point of working hard if you’re not having fun?”
Oddly, his first pay was cash in a small white envelope because they wanted to test him before employing him properly.
He asked me to deposit the money into his bank account for him, which I did. He then divided it between his savings account and his checking account. There was no rush to spend it all.
He mentioned another tech he’s saving up for, but he’s happy to wait.
Once in a while, Philip asks me what his official savings account is for, and I say it’s for big life-changing events, like traveling the world, moving house, or buying his first car.
He hasn’t saved much yet, but every time he hits a savings goal he shares it with me and I can see he’s proud.
I’m proud of myself too because my kids and I discuss money openly and honestly, like we do it all. I don’t want them to worry about the money. I just want them to understand the role he plays in all of our lives and what they can do so he never gets the better of them.
Money is a tool we use to pay for the life we all love and one day it will be me visiting them at home, or they taking me to lunch and unwrapping the presents they bought for me.
They will be proud and I will know my job is done.
Bendigo Bank wants to help you plan and save to build a better future for you and your family. Get more information on bendigobank.com.au/familyhub
Note: This article contains general advice only. Readers should seek the advice of a trusted professional on financial matters. Please read the applicable product disclosure statement(s) on the Bendigo Bank website before purchasing any product.