Teaching money management skills to youth does not have to be overwhelming

Simple strategies can open the door to financial conversations in group settings.

Discussing finances with youth can seem daunting and overwhelming. Even if you do not feel particularly knowledgeable in the topic of money management, having a discussion with young people can make a significant difference in their future.

Being an expert in finances is not required to help youth with this topic. However, helping them know the importance of learning more and where they can go to get personal finance information should be the goal.

Michigan State University Exension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to help you infuse financial education into your time spent with young people. The easiest way to start the conversation is to simply have youth start talking about money. They know, have an interest in and likely have opinions on a great deal of money-related topics already.

Open the door to discussions with some general “money” comments or questions that are open-ended. Have it start as a casual conversation. Invite the young people to share what they have experienced related to money, what they choose to do with the money they have and what influences their decisions around money.

Be creative; ask questions that draw out the youths’ values when it comes to money.

For example MSU Extension suggests asking:

  • Where is favorite place to eat out? Do you consider what items cost when deciding what to order?
  • How much do you spend on snacks in a given week? Have you ever kept track and added it all up?
  • Do you prefer going out to the movies or renting a movie? What influences your decision?
  • What do you spend the most on: food, entertainment or sports? If money was not an issue, would you choose differently?
  • If you were given $10, what would you do with it?
  • Who do you go to for advice on money related topics?
  • Do your friends make similar choicse when it comes to spending money? How do you feel about that?

A unique way to encourage a group of youth to discuss money is by having “open conversation” boards using flip chart paper on the wall, a bulletin board or even a social media site. These “free spaces” allow thought, reflection and a pressure-free environement to participate. Ask youth to share ways that they can save money, one tip they have learned from a family member, teacher or friend about money management, or strategies they use to make wise financial choices. Most high school youth have experienced or seen enough money related situations to have ideas to share with each other. The topics generated could lead to an interest to learn more. At that point, bring in an experienced presenter from MSU Extension, a local credit union or bank, or from another financial institution to offer financial education.

A key message that is important to share with youth is that money decisions are based around values. How we each decide to spend, save or invest money is based on what is important in our life. Help young people understand the importance of making wise decisions that align with their goals, values and plans for life.

MSU Extension has many articles to help adults learn more about money management as well as ways to teach the topic to youth. Helping make the topic less overwhelming is beneficial to both youth and to the adults who work with them.

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