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Financial Fitness for Your Family
Teenagers and money! Are you setting your kids up for success and less stress?

"I want more spending money. I want to hang out with my friends more. I want more clothes. When do I ever get to do anything I want to do?"

I don’t know about your household, but I sure hear this in mine. All three of us, my husband, my teenager and I, are guilty of these complaints.

We are in trying times. My teenager’s summer job money has run out, and it’s a few months until next year. We bought a house in the fall so I’m dreaming of “home renos.” We’ve paid off our VISA bills from Christmas, but I still want to go on vacation.

So, what do we do? I’ve often heard, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I believe that’s what my folks were trying to tell me when they constantly reminded me to “save for a rainy day.” I was lucky enough to be taught about budgeting and balancing a check book growing up. Whether it was saving for a rainy day, future fun, or simply putting money aside for an emergency, I’m grateful they took the time to educate me.

Although I may not have appreciated it much at the time, I did practice what they preached over the years. That and my pride took a couple of hard hits when having to ask my parents for money. That’s why I’m passing on this tradition to my teenager.

This weekend the three of us sat down and had a ‘Dream Session’. Having a ‘budget meeting’ sounds harsh, so we started with fun first - family vacations. To my surprise and delight, we all wanted many of the same things. Now, agreeing on the vacation destination will be the next hurdle.

Once we had our goals set, we put a plan in place to get there. Seriously, money doesn’t grow on trees you know. (Dad, is that you?) We broke down what we spend monthly, what we need annually, and anything in between. Yes, my teenager, too. He even commented that he hadn’t thought about what he actually spent each month before. It was good to see it on paper.

For him, having his own vehicle, cell phone and fun money to be responsible for, was put into perspective. We talked about budgeting for today, saving for the future, and what effect the decision to pay your bills on time would have on your credit rating.

It’s all about choices. Do we want Burger King today or the Bahamas next year? What I found most satisfying was it was a two hour discussion and we all participated. We made decisions on what we could sacrifice today to reach our goals tomorrow. All the while we had a picture of the Bahamas stuck on the wall as we talked about finances.

I think we all learned from this family talk. My son learned why we make the decisions we do, and don’t eat out much. My husband learned its okay to talk about money as a family, and I learned where everyone’s priorities are. Bottom line – we want to set up our kids for success. If we don’t talk about these things at home before they move out, when will they learn?

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). How about your household? Are you setting up your teens for success and less stress?

Diane Exner loves to encourage others in every area of life. She loves challenging and teaching others to stress less and live more. Feel free to visit her website at

Originally published in City Light News, March 2009.




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