Financial management and youth are like oil and vinegar--they don’t mix. Managing finances is a distant and removed—and thus boring--prospect for most young people. In fact, the very idea of managing anything is unappealing to today’s youth. The teenage years are the rebel years, the years when we strive for independence, when we seek freedom, when we distance ourselves from authority in an attempt to stake our claim. But many teens don’t associate freedom with the responsibility it necessitates. Ironically, assuming responsibility for one’s finances is precisely what empowers people to get where they want to go. So the burning question remains; how do we help our young people learn sound financial management skills?
Some kids seem lucky to have parents and teachers who try to teach them how to make and manage money. But try only means so much: a preexisting generational disconnect prevents the wisdom of elders from being absorbed by the young people they so genuinely wish to help. This has its roots in modern history: career expectations were different for the Baby Boomers and Generation X than they are for Gen-Y. Parents and grandparents of today worked hard and did whatever it took to ensure a prosperous future for their families and posterity. The type of work mattered less; security and salary mattered more.
But the "better future" they wanted to create for their kids and grandkids has arrived, and it has offered Gen-Y the luxury of choice. We have more options for our careers today than ever before. We don't have to hate our work; we don't necessarily want to retire—and with improvements in healthcare technology, we can expect to work until much later in life than our parents.
Another important difference about Gen-Y is that while college may not have been necessary for our parents—it is almost a necessity for us—and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s become a very expensive necessity. A typical college graduate has an average of $25,000 in debt at the time of graduation. This debt load forces young people to meticulously manage their finances throughout college. Unfortunately high school seniors are entering college without the financial management tools they need, which is one of the contributing factors to the record number of defaults on college loans.
There needs to be an intervention.
At Moneythink, we start our courses with a shrunken time horizon:
- What do you want to buy?
- Where to you want to go?
- What do you want to do in the near future?
- What costs money that you don't currently have, and how can you get there?
We believe that young people need to understand why they're saving and budgeting before they can truly buy in to these concepts as habitual practices. The Moneythink curriculum uses real-world examples from pop-culture, sports, and current events to hook the attention of students. Through peer-to-peer mentorship, students set goals and grow together, making the process fun, trust-based, and relationship-driven. And starting small, with sights set on immediate goals such as saving for a new pair of sneakers, a short vacation, or a trip to the movies, teaches smart habits that carry over into the bigger decisions later on down the road.
We all hear talk in the news of the dark days ahead for young people. Such talk is premised on the assumption that young people will continue to enter the real world as passive bystanders, unengaged citizens, and irresponsible spenders. At Moneythink, we believe that with the proper financial education, Gen-Y can handle whatever storms the future brings. Using relevant and relationship-driven goal-setting, immediate rewards and incentives, and functional habit-building, we can prepare the next generation, our generation, to take the reins from our parents and build a better future, one not of scarcity, fear, and debt, but of abundance, freedom, and mobility.