How I Accidentally Raised Money-Smart Teens

A Gen X mother shares three ways any parent, or financial institution, can encourage money management.

I’m a Gen X mom, and I have something to confess.

All three of my kids are part of Gen Z, also known as the next wave of credit union members. Yet, despite spending most of my career in the credit union industry, I have not spent much time explicitly talking with my kids about money.

The good news, however, is that my kids have formed some smart financial habits. For example, my soon-to-be 13-year-old son mows our neighbor’s lawn. When I asked him what he was going to do with his paychecks, he said he planned on spending one and then saving one in his credit union account.

I’ll rotate it like that, he said.

And that’s exactly what he did throughout the entire spring, summer, and fall mowing season. In fact, he did better than that. His main purchases have been candy, a nerf gun, and a Lego set, and on any given day, he now has more cash in his wallet than I have in my purse. When it was time to buy my husband’s Father’s Day gift my son ran into his room and handed me enough cash to cover the online order I was placing.

I wish I’d had as much financial sense as a kid or even as an adult sometimes!

The next generation of credit union member.

My girls don’t have paying jobs yet, but they are already thinking about long-term financial decisions, such as where to go to college.

My 15-year-old has made it clear that she is thinking about an in-state school, in part to save on tuition costs. She is also a lifeguard in training at the local YMCA and has near-term plans to upgrade her savings account to a checking account with a debit card as soon as she turns 16 and starts earning a paycheckContentMiddleAd.

My soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter is evaluating career paths at her middle school with an eye on what is most likely to pay a decent salary. Engineering has come up as an option recently despite years of wanting to be an actress. When I asked her why the change, she answered in a matter-of-fact tone: It can be hard to make enough to support yourself as an actress. I need to have options.

I can’t take full credit for their outlook on the financial realities of life, but there are a few things I’ve done right:

  1. I opened a credit union savings account for each of them when they were babies. This is an important first step for kids. Everyone needs a place to deposit birthday checks and other money that grandparents, uncles, aunts, and godparents send over the years. It also introduces them to the world of affordable financial services, which they’ll need throughout their lives.
    Credit Union Takeaway: Our credit union offers a higher rate currently 1% on the first $500 to encourage youth savings. How does your credit union encourage kids to save?
  2. I always kept in mind that kids soak in everything. I’m a former vice president of marketing for a credit union all three of my kids were basically born into the credit union movement. They’ve been exposed to money and finances even without me talking to them explicitly about it. My oldest often would come to my office and sit in on early morning meetings before daycare. And all three helped me at community events on the weekends. All that time, even though they were very young, they were soaking it all in.
    Credit Union Takeaway: Always include an activity for kids during community events and within your branches.
  3. I didn’t offer a choice. Whenever a check rolled in for a birthday or holiday, I deposited it straight into their savings account. I took them with me to the branch so they could see what happened to the money and got a lollipop or a sticker to ease the pain of not being able to spend it. As they got older, I adjusted accordingly. Some of the mandatory deposits allowed for the 50/50 rule save half and spend half. This approach has helped all three understand that it’s important to save now for things they might want or need later. Case in point: My oldest daughter used her savings to pay for the bulk of a school trip to China last summer.
    Credit Union Takeaway: In addition to lollipops and stickers, our credit union gives out small stuffed animals and other prizes to help kids celebrate milestones, such as a deposit more than $25 or hitting $100 in their account. And I know of credit unions that design financial literacy programs specifically to encourage strong savings habits among children. How does your credit union make the choice to save clear?

If these three are any indication of what Gen Z is like, credit unions have a bright future ahead as the next wave of potential members starts making their own smart financial choices.

Kids these days care about more than just selfies; they care about savings, too.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

People try to put them down, but today’s young adults are forcing all industries to examine how they serve customers and hire employees. Follow along as explores the world of financial services through the eyes of the next generation.

February 12, 2018

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