If you ask people what they regret most about their financial past, they often say they wish they had gotten serious about money sooner — much sooner.

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When you’re young and you aren’t paying the bills yet, it can be hard to understand how your earning, spending and saving habits will affect your future self.

How do you help a teen or a young twenty-something adult understand that their money habits directly affect the freedom and choices they will have — or not have — later on?

It’s a tough concept, for sure. But as a parent or guardian, you can use some simple strategies to give your kids the advantage.

Here are five great ways to help them build a money-smart mindset:

  1. Use your family’s monthly budget as a teaching tool. Show your teen the details of your household expenses on paper or a spreadsheet. Let them see how much money it takes to run your household and where the money goes, specifically.
  2. Help your teen set up checking and savings accounts. Take advantage of the digital skills kids have to get them involved in managing their accounts online or through the Arvest Go This gives teens hands-on experience and can make it fun!
  1. Create a savings goal and incentive. Once your son or daughter has some income from a job, help him or her set a realistic savings goal, and consider offering an incentive. For example, if your teen saves 10, 25 or 50% of what they earn within a certain timeframe, you could:
    • Match the amount they saved, or add a pre-determined amount to their savings
    • Help them pay for something they’ve been saving for
    • Or celebrate in some special way that’s easy on your budget.
  1. Help them establish a credit history and learn to protect it. To help your teen learn about credit and establish a personal credit history, consider adding their name to your credit card as an authorized user. (Credit reporting policies may vary, so check with your card provider first to find out if they report credit card activity for authorized users.) Whether or not you give your teen access to the card, your timely payments on the account can build years of solid credit in their name.

(Many major credit card companies have no age restrictions for adding a minor as an authorized user, while others may require your teen to be at least 15 or 16. Check with your provider for details.)

Once your teen has been named on your account for a while, as a learning opportunity, you can help them order a free copy of their credit reports. Minors age 13 and older can order reports from all three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com*. (For minors under age 18, the credit bureaus generally do not disclose credit files to any outside parties — only to the minor or their legal guardian.)

Reviewing credit reports together, both yours and theirs, can help teens grasp how important it is to manage debt and make timely payments. It helps them understand that companies will use these reports to make decisions about them, such as whether to rent to them, whether to grant them a loan, and whether to hire them.

  1. Teach kids why they need to care about retirement savings in their twenties. Even though they won’t be contributing to an employer’s retirement account or an IRA for several more years, high-school-aged kids need at least a basic understanding of the power time has on their long-term savings growth. In other words, saving a small amount regularly over many, many years is the key to growing a large enough nest egg to retire comfortably.

Understanding this concept early on can help prepare teens for eventually starting a full-time job. If they start off already expecting to budget a small percent of each paycheck for retirement contributions, they can take full advantage of time on their side.

There’s no better way to illustrate the difference time makes on interest earnings than with real figures. Demonstrate the power of time for your teen with an online tool like this Compound Interest Calculator*. Or ask a financial professional for more ideas.

As you talk about these money-smart basics, remember to share wisdom from your own experiences. You’ll be setting your teen up to make the most of their personal finances for decades to come.

You can find more free resources for parents and teens here:








1$50 initial deposit required to open each account. Checking accounts for minors under 18 require a parent or legal guardian to sign as joint owner.

**A third-party site not operated by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. Arvest Bank’s privacy policy and security practices do not apply to the site you are about to enter. Please review the third party’s privacy and security practices.