Sarah Wells – The West Australian ‘Your Money’Finance and money expert
Sarah Wells: Teaching teens to value currency and the cost of technology.
So your teen wants a new phone, but how do you teach them about the value of money by using their pocket money and savings as currency so they’re invested?
I remember as a young teen being given a list and some money to go to the newsagency to buy the Sunday paper and a packet of cigarettes for my mum. Yes, that was allowed back in the day, and it was her way of giving me some responsibility and independence. It was a different world.
In 2023, are devices, data and downloads the equivalent of lemonade stands and going to the shops for your parents?
My trips to the shops taught me responsibility, accountability and the value of money. I was responsible for getting what was on the list, handing over the money and checking the change.
I was accountable if I lost any of the change and if I didn’t get the correct amount that would come straight out of my pocket money.
So in this modern day, how do we teach our teens the value of money when they already have devices that cost more than my first car?
I hear this a great deal from parents, who don’t want their kids left behind, but who also want to manage the ever-increasing demands of expectation.
My view is that devices, data and downloads are the perfect segue to teach young minds about the responsibility of ownership and financial accountability.
For example, when I lost my school jumper I had to find it or wear one from the lost property box as I only got one per winter.
While that might sound harsh, it taught me a valuable lesson in looking after my things that I’ve maintained well into adulthood.
It also taught me gratitude and tamed the fear-of-missing-out perception that seems so prevalent in our modern teens.
So, where do you start to get your teens invested?
When you’re looking to buy a device, tech or something of high value, consider your children contributing towards it.
When you give them a valuable item as a present it can be difficult to take it from them or implement rules. Make it clear that they must contribute towards having the device, then create rules around it. This teaches them value and consequence.
This is also the ideal time to discuss family values such as time without devices, user-responsibility and anything else that you feel is reflective of your expectations.
To lock this down, you might want to have it in writing, sign it and put it up on a fridge or common area to remind all of your commitments to one another.
Accidents can and will happen so insurance might be something to discuss and even a way for them to learn more about consequences.
You may wish to have part of their pocket money or chore money diverted to fund this so when something happens, there is a plan in place rather that it being another cost you need to cover.
This is about additional data, new cases and upgrades along with apps and downloads that your teen might want.
Pre-paid Visa cards and app store cards can be earned or gifted as birthday or Christmas presents, and are ideal ways to cover this cost.
It also allows your child to learn about budgeting and the cost of living.
Resist the temptation to link these to your credit card, because then they won’t understand the cost, or fear running out of money.
This helps them prepare for what living in the grown up world feels like.
Damage and loss
Things are going to get lost and broken, but it’s important to have a conversation about what an accident looks like versus neglect or irresponsibility.
Teach your teen that things cost money to repair and replace and set rules and boundaries about what this might look like if a device is lost or irreparable.
You can set up a savings account to put some money aside out of their pocket money or chore money to save for the replacement device or, as a way for them to contribute if the worst occurs.
While it’s natural for each generation to want to give their children more than what we had, and to avoid hardship, loss and disappointment, we also need to strike the right balance of teaching them life lessons and not instantly giving them everything they “need.”
Teaching them money skills, budgeting and what they can afford versus what they want in life is a great gift.
Knowing the value of a hard earned dollar, understanding budgeting skills and saving helps build resilience and patience and are all great life skills.
Money skills are important and often highly undervalued. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or uncomfortable to talk about it to your kids and let them get invested in their possessions at an early age.
Because when they’re grown-ups, trust me, they’ll thank you for it.
Sarah Wells is a Perth-based money and finance specialist