Teaching Finance to your High Schooler

High schoolers need to learn a lot of different skills and information. They’re busy getting ready for post-secondary school, for jobs and careers, and for adulthood. Preparing for all of that means understanding how money works — beyond the value of coins and dollars. Teaching finance to your high schooler is probably more important than English, science, history or any other life skill they could learn.

Why teach finances?

Financial literacy is a rarely-taught life skill that should be emphasized more often. It’s often not taught because it is a complex area that most adults don’t understand themselves. There are a lot of different aspects of financial literacy, from personal financial management to entrepreneurship, and many of us feel intimidated by these topics. But if we teach our children before they become adults themselves, we can help them prevent problems before they happen.

What to teach?

Teaching finances means covering a lot of different topics and concepts. There’s a lot that goes into financial management!

Start with personal financial literacy, and teach the basics of managing money. Cover budgets and how to match income to expenses. Work through banking, from how to set up a bank account to the various types of accounts you can have.

From banking you can move into credit and talk about what credit is. Teach them about credit scores and how they work (and how they can monitor it!) Then you can learn about mortgages and various types of loans – personal loans, car loans, lines of credit, and credit cards.

Talking about loans leads naturally to talking about interest – both the kind you pay and the kind you can receive from saving. After learning about interest, you can explore investment, and the many types of investment, from stocks and bonds, to GICs and mutual funds. (And if you’re unsure if you understand these topics, just keep reading!)

The final, and probably most important skill you can teach your kids, is about taxes. Teaching them what taxes are, why we pay them, and how to file for income tax is going to help them not only understand their own finances but government finances.

How to teach finances

Financial literacy obviously doesn’t start in high school, but should start much younger. However, high school is when you can get into more detailed and complicated studies.

One of the best ways to teach financial skills is to model financial management. Talk to your kids about what bills you’re paying and how. If you and your partner need to make a financial decision – such as changing your budget or making a large purchase – have those discussions around your kids. Let them hear you talk about the money you make your paycheck and how you decide what to spend and where.

Set up bank accounts for your kids early, and encourage them to ask questions from the teller and bank managers. Help them set up their own budgets, even if it’s just for birthday and holiday gifted money.

Support your children in their money-making efforts.

Entrepreneurship should be encouraged from a young age, so if they’ve got ideas to walk dogs, mow laws or babysit for neighbours, offer transportation, help in designing flyers or providing safe contact info.

Check out your local library, bank or municipal office for workshops, seminars or training courses. Often, you can find free or low-cost sessions that will cover specific topics, or give access to professional accountants, business coaches, bankers or financial planners for questions.

There are a variety of curriculum options as well.

Rather than looking for specifically homeschool curriculum, look for courses that will teach the basic skills you’re looking to talk about. (Check out the end of this post for a free downloadable checklist of financial skills to teach). You can find both paper-based and online courses to teach various aspects of financial literacy.

And one of our favorite ways to learn about finances (risk-free) is to use a video or simulation game. From setting up a business to dabbling in the stock market, there are lots of options here as well.

Courses and Tools to Teach Finance

Teaching finance to your high schooler can be easy with our recommended list of curriculum.

Get a surface-level look at financial literacy with Time4Learning’s personal finance high school elective. This course covers the basics of budgeting, careers and income, introduces income taxes, banking, and investments, shines a light on credit, and finishes with a brief look at economics. This course is great introduction to a variety of topics, and will set up your student for more study successfully.

Personal Finance 101 from Mama Shark picks up where Time4Learning leaves off and goes in depth into budgeting and banking. This 6 week video course walks teens through setting up their own budget with a popular budgeting app (though the principals apply to any budgeting app). And it gives kids a really good look at the costs involved in day-to-day living as an adult.

Beyond Personal Finance takes the skills of budgeting and guides teens through applying them in a selection of real-life situations, from going to college to getting married to buying a house. Making the principals of finance relevant to real-world circumstances invites kids to emotionally connect to what they’ve learned — which means they’ll remember more.

Key Life Skill for Adulthood

Teaching finance to your high schooler doesn’t happen often when it should. It is one of those often-overlooked life skills that is essential to success in adulthood. We all need to learn more about how to best manage our money. And working alongside our kids can teach us more about what we didn’t know we needed to know. Turns out those lemonade stands our kids have in the summer are key learning tools!

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