Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Teaching Teens About Responsible Spending: Tips from American Express and the Safe Spend Program

Many times, my husband and I have lamented the fact that few schools teach practical skills to kids, such as balancing a checkbook, changing a tire, and buying a house. We’re not alone. An American Express survey found that more than half of parents (57%) with kids in high school and college give schools below average or failing grades in teaching kids about responsible spending. I have two sons in college, and they never learned any of these skills in school. Therefore, it’s important that parents teach these crucial life skills to their children before they leave home. Before my two oldest boys started college, we opened checking and savings accounts for them, and got them debit cards. We talked about credit cards and building a good credit record, paying bills on time, sticking within a budget, and much more. My boys are both responsible now for their own college expenses, and I feel comfortable knowing that they have a solid financial foundation.

The Safe Spend program is a valuable resource for providing parents with tools and tips to teach their teens about responsible spending. Launched by American Express, along with financial expert Jean Chatzky and Mom Central’s Stacy DeBroff, this program is designed to help parents teach their kids how to “Practice Safe Spend” before leaving for college or an independent life. The following tips can help make discussing the importance of money management with your teen a little easier:

Protect yourself from a budget blowout: There are college expenses you plan for -- food on the meal plan, books -- and then there’s everything else. Laundry, late night pizza and other extras add up fast. Decide how much your teen will have for these variables, tell him to track all spending, and then check back in a month to see how it’s working out.

Understand that no means no: It happens to parents, too -- paying for a killer outfit or electronic gadget with a credit or charge card, only to feel the delayed sticker shock at month’s end. Before your college student arrives on campus, talk about the types of spending temptations they may experience and should avoid while at school.

Keep your teens close, and their spending closer: A card linked to your account proves ideal for teens in emergency situations. Parents never know when their young adult might need immediate access to additional funds to get themselves out of a jam. For example, their car might break down and they need to pay for a tow. You can give your teen a charge card like the American Express Additional Card with Custom Limits, that allows you to quickly and easily raise their spending limit -- granting them access to additional funds -- simply by going online.

If you’ve got teenagers at home, don’t assume that they learned good financial habits and skills in school. Take the initiative to teach them about sound money management. To aid in these types of discussions, you can find more helpful “Practice Safe Spend” tips at

DISCLOSURE: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of American Express and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Definitely. Beginning "Generation Change" from Dave Ramsey here with about 30 teenagers...a very important topic that parents need to be guiding their kids through!


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