Ah, we made it! It’s most rewarding yet the most challenging to work with high school students on money management.
While these activities are the most fun for parents, high school students are more difficult to engage than younger children.
If you don’t have high school age children yet, you may not know this, but your brains will disappear for about four or five years.
Looking for tips for younger children? Try:
5 Great High School Activities
1) Family book club. Right now, my 17 year old kids and I are reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. If you haven’t read this book yet, by all means, start now. It contains powerful advice wrapped in easy-to-understand language.
Every day the kids read a chapter. Then, at dinner, we discuss that day’s reading. Sometimes these conversations devolve (“why does a stock go up or down?” “what’s a good Roth IRA investment?”), but I love it. Who doesn’t want to have relaxed conversations about money with a curious 17 year old?
Why I like it: I get to ensure my kids get to college with some clue about money before they arrive. Because I made sure the book was fun and easy to read, and because I don’t preach, we’re able to have great talks about money.
2) Engage kids in the Family Meeting. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I love the idea of a family meeting. Budgets within a family are more about good communication than about counting pennies. If everyone is on the same page spending each day will be more careful, and life is made up of these little crisp 24 hour periods.
Some people have a violent reaction to this advice. “Show my kid my bills and my savings? That’s none of their business.” You are correct, but lets challenge your assumptions: why is it taboo to talk about your financial situation with others, especially those as close as your teenager.
Boundaries must be drawn. You’ll have to explain what happens when the whole street learns about your finances. But in the bigger picture, if they help you pay the bills, evaluate savings and plan large purchases, you’ll hand them a lifetime of knowledge that they’ll appreciate down the road.
Why I like it: When we began talking frankly with our children about bills and savings, they began to see how tight every month is for the average family. Next year we were planning on going to France for their graduation. The reality of two children in college at once has set in and we’re downgrading the vacation plan to a rental house on Lake Michigan for seven days. No groans from the kids because they understand the math behind the decision.
3) Find a job. I’m not talking about grabbing the local Dairy Queen gig (if I had that summer job I’d weigh about 750 pounds!). I’m talkin’ about helping junior through the process of fighting for a summer internship at a resume-building position. If they’re interested in engineering, try to find opportunities with a large local company. If law or medicine, apply at the hospital, a law firm, or the local doctor’s office.
There’s a ton that junior learns while creating a resume, dressing appropriately and speaking well. The training involved in competing for these positions is a good primer in adult life skills.
Why I like it: By working in a professional environment, high school kids get a first hand look at how business works. Studies have shown that people who work in “real jobs” before college are more likely to do well in the classroom because they know how their learning might apply in the real world.
4) Scholarship hunt. Finding money for college is a full time job. The internet is brimming with opportunities for money, but you have to know who to ask and what scholarships to pursue. Most high schoolers only scratch the surface when it comes to searching for scholarships.
Instead of one-offing each opportunity, we found quickly that many of the scholarship opportunities were similar. My kids could write a couple of basic essays and then modify them to fit each particular offer. Most needed references from teachers and community members. We didn’t just learn about scholarship, we learned about creating systems to efficiently attack more quickly.
Why I like it: By formulating essays and asking for letters of reference, kids learn about the importance of written and verbal communication. They also realize that “going it alone” isn’t usually a good idea. It makes sense to find some powerful friends to help you….AND my kids were surprised that most powerful people want to help.
5) Board games. I’m back with more board games to teach the family about money. This time the games are downright fun for adults. Games such as Acquire can teach simple mergers and acquisitions. Power Grid is a modern-day version of monopoly involving power companies. And, in this year when the politics of the nation are up for grabs, 1960: The Making of a President is a good primer on the campaign process while also serving as a fun way to learn some history.
Why I like it: Board games are a great way to spend time with your kids. Instead of arguing or fighting about curfews and money, you’ll enjoying each other’s company over a communal activity.
How do you teach high school kids about money? Let’s have some more ideas in the comments below!