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Your child is turning 13. What now?

The early teen years are an opportune time for parents and grandparents to share important lessons about financial management, the value of money and the responsibilities of wealth.

Mother and daughter sitting in a field.

Thirteen. It’s when a child is starting to come of age but is still far from being an adult. This onset of the teen years is when kids begin to have meaningful money to spend, as well as more questions about the family’s finances. They are developing spending and savings habits — and becoming mature enough to understand the financial world around them and their role in the family.  

For all those reasons, age 13 is an apt time for parents and grandparents to start taking financial education seriously. “You want to make sure your child understands the value of money, the notion of hard work, giving back and how to keep a level head about finances,” says Anita Saggurti, Next Gen strategy executive at Bank of America Private Bank. 

No doubt you’ve been discussing money with your newly minted teen for some time. Even young children grasp the idea that you need money to buy things. “You start by talking about what things cost and what it takes to earn money,” says Rocky Fittizzi, wealth strategies advisor at Bank of America Private Bank. “Then as they begin their teen years, you sprinkle in more. I call it the piggy bank approach.”

Here’s how to build on what your 13-year-old already knows about money and set them up for lifelong financial success.

Young girl and woman sitting together. Text reads “5 smart ways to teach young teens about the value of money”]

5 smart ways to teach young teens about the value of money

Once a child enters their teen years, they’re ready to get more hands-on experience managing money — and to learn more about your family’s approach to finances and the responsibilities of wealth.

Father and son working in a garden. Text reads “1. Model your values”

Model your values. Your kids learn by seeing you work hard, spend money, support charitable causes, volunteer and take time to be with family. 

Young woman on couch holding computer tablet and debit card. Text reads “2. Let them make decisions”

Let them make decisions. You may want to tie an allowance to certain responsibilities, but then give kids room to spend via a debit card or payment app. 

Photo album containing archival photographs. Text reads “3. Tell your family’s story”

Tell your family’s story. As you start to talk about your family’s finances, point out the positive impact your wealth has had on the family and the community.

Mother and daughter reviewing papers with an advisor. Text reads “4. Enlist your advisor”

Enlist your advisor. This neutral outsider can help teach money management and reinforce your family’s values and the legacy you want to build.

Mother and son looking at laptop. Text reads “5. Introduce investing”

Introduce investing. Giving your kids shares of companies they’re interested in can lead to practical conversations about market returns, taxes and so on.  

Consider this an ongoing dialogue, not a single talk

By age 13, your child  should be ready for more advanced conversations around money management and the family’s finances. “Thirteen is the right time in terms of maturity,” Fittizzi says. Still, the early teen years are different for every kid. Only you know what your child or grandchild can handle.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you’re only beginning the conversation, establishing trust so that your child is receptive to the advice and information they’ll need to thrive in the future. “Your goal is to open the door to ongoing, deeper discussions that will last throughout your child’s teen years and will effectively convey your thoughts around family values and finances,” Saggurti says.

Introduce money management fundamentals

At 13 and beyond, kids gain more independence: hanging out with friends, heading to sleepover camp and buying their own clothes and games. It’s also a time when they may have more cash at their disposal. “This is the age when kids go through secular and religious rites of passage,” says Saggurti. “They may be receiving substantial gifts or even starting to earn money.” Even modest pay from odd jobs like babysitting or lawn mowing may necessitate opening new financial accounts — and open a door to lessons about balancing instant gratification with saving for longer-term goals.

Some practical lessons can be learned by doing. Thirteen may not be old enough for a credit card, but it’s not too young for a debit card or access to electronic payment apps. You’ll want to make sure your child knows how to make the most of these tools — and be alert for dangers, such as cyber theft and the loss of privacy.

Be open about your values

As you think about how to share your values about money, remember that you may have competition for your child’s attention. A 13-year-old is likely being bombarded with messages, which may not align with what your family believes in. It’s up to you to ground them in what’s healthy.

This is where teaching by example comes in. Let your kids see the hard work you do, the philanthropic efforts you spearhead and the spending choices you make. You can even get a 13-year-old involved in the family’s charitable giving.

“When children see you working hard, volunteering, giving money to a certain cause and making time for family, they naturally pick up on what your values are,” says Fittizzi, “and they’ll likely continue that legacy after you’re gone.” Your time is important, too. When kids watch you spend a day playing ball with the family, you’re teaching them another important value.

Make your advisor part of the process 

Another way to educate your 13-year-old is to have your teen sit in on meetings with your financial advisor, who can help explain the basics of money management while reinforcing your family’s values and the legacy you want to build. “I’ve found an advisor can resonate with kids in a different way than parents can,” Fittizzi says.

Start telling your family’s story

Parents and grandparents may worry that candid conversations about the family’s finances will give young teens the impression that their future is set, squashing their ambition. But when families clearly communicate their values in a positive way, children get the message: Wealth is a responsibility that must be earned and managed.

When you decide to discuss the source of your family’s money, “point out what wealth has enabled you and your family to do,” Fittizzi says. That might include how the family supports the community or how its financial position has allowed family members to pursue certain careers or follow a passion to make meaningful change.

With a 13-year-old, you should know where to draw the line, too. As much as you want open communication, you don’t have to divulge every detail at once.  Ultimately you want them to learn about your family’s financial legacy and goals for the future and how they fit into those plans. For a 13-year-old, that conversation is just beginning. 

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