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Teen Budgeting Class

Our Airman and Family Readiness Center has a boatload of classes available for family members on a wide variety of topics.  These classes are worth going to, but I never knew they had them - now I'm on a roll with taking them!  The latest was a class that I dragged my 13 year old to - Teen Smart.  All about money for teens.  Tough class to teach with an audience as wide ranging as 13 - 21, but I thought it was worthwhile attending.  I learned a lot about what teens thought about money and what they didn't know.

What really shocked me is how little teens know about money.  How much do things really cost?  If you want to get a car, save money for it, but don't just save for the car - make a budget....a WHAT?  You know, what is the car really going to cost you?  Maintenance, gas, insurance.........this seemed to be a foreign concept to most of the participants.   Good grief, some of these kids were in their Senior Year in High School and will be out on their own next year after graduation.

What is a credit card and how does it work? What are the different types of banking accounts?  How do you make a simple budget?  What is a credit report and why does it matter?  What is identity theft?  How do you make choices about what to buy?  How do you save?  One participant bought a car with her savings from her job this summer.  This is great, but she saved the money, literally, under her mattress!

Very depressing!

I had my eyes opened.  Many kids were routinely using their parents credit cards - made me gulp!  Some had debit cards - but had no idea that if you don't have money in the account you can still use the card, they just charge you huge overdraft fees every time you use it!  So they'd buy a candy bar to find out that it's cost them an additional $35 in overdraft charges.  It's as if they believed the card made the money magically appear! 

There was too much to do in one class.  SO, I'm asking for your help.  How do you teach your kids about money, credit cards, banking accounts, credit reports, and budgeting.  What do you think is age appropriate for different age groups?  12-15 versus 16-18 and 19-21. 

I'm helping to rebuild/redefine the Teen Smart class - your input will be incredibly helpful!  As a parent, what do you want your teen to learn about money in a two-hour class?  Would you bring them back for more than one class?  How do you make this fun, interesting and engaging for teens without scaring the bejeepers out of them?  Should there be more than one class?  How many do you think we could get kids/parents to return for at the center - keep in mind, there's free pizza, soda and cookies provided!

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