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Turning Summer Salaries Into Money Lessons

Summer vacation for students used to be about a break from the books and relaxing poolside. But more than 9 million teens ages 16-19 will skip the sunblock this year and seek summer employment — with many of them earning their first real paycheck.

Before that cash is spent on song downloads and ring tones, parents should use their teens' first taste of financial freedom to guide them toward a lifetime of savvy spending and saving.

Paycheck basics: Explain the new meaning of "gross"

Teens may not understand why money comes out of their paycheck before it reaches their hands. Explain how deductions pay for Medicare and Social Security. This will help them learn the difference between "gross" and "net" pay, and adjust their spending accordingly. 

Online banking: Teach through technology

Graduating from spending an allowance to earning money is a big step, so explain how to open a checking account, and discuss how direct deposit can give quick, electronic access to money. Also, walk through how to keep track of an account balance online. If your teen is responsible for paying any bills, such as car insurance, now may be a good time to demonstrate how to use online bill pay to ensure bills are paid on time.

Budget: Divvy up dollars

With that first paycheck in hand, a teenager will probably want to go on a shopping spree. While spending some of that money is okay, talk about how funds should be divided between saving and spending. By setting short-term goals — such as saving for an MP3 player — and long-term goals — such as saving for college expenses — teens will see hard work turn into something more than movie tickets or fast-food. A good way to begin a budget is to put at least 10% into savings, which can be done automatically. This will put them on the path to learning smart money habits they'll keep as adults.

By educating your teen about how to manage money wisely, you'll help ensure that a summer paycheck doesn't melt away faster than an ice cream cone in July.

For more tips on making your military kids financially savvy, visit's Finance channel.

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