The financial responsibilities of today’s adults are so many that, if heaped on a young person all at once, the load would be crushing. That’s why we develop slowly, one financial task at a time.
Whether you’re a young adult just starting out, or a parent trying to teach teens how to navigate fiscal tasks, here is a timeline for when money management skills can (and should!) be learned.
Before introducing terms like “bill,” “payment,” “interest,” “asset,” “loan” or even “check book,” the skill of saving needs to be established. From kindergarten to college and all the way to retirement, no financial skill is more valuable – or fundamental – than the self-discipline of setting a portion aside for another day. This is a lesson that should be learned early, but can be learned at any time. So if you feel it’s impossible to save, work on this skill first.
A consumer who’s able to reign in spending is one who’s ready for the second lesson: establishing a budget and sticking to it. Budgeting may seem more fundamental than saving, but the two go hand-in-hand. Budgeting is an administrative skill, while the ability to save is a character trait. When you can control spending, you’re ready to budget. Once you’ve mastered both, you’re ready for the next financial responsibility.
#3. Your Role, Your Bank’s Role
Next is the task of learning the role of banks.
Banking institutions have been around since the earliest civilizations. How do they operate? How do they generate income for themselves? Individuals need to learn how to put banks to work for their advantage, not the other way around. This task usually means opening a savings and a checking account and learning how to use them for every day financial decisions like how to turn a paycheck into an insurance payment to appease common deadlines.
In this step, you’ll also learn the role of credit – how it can help you and how it can hurt you or others. A starter card should be opened to begin building credit, which will help with larger purchases and some job applications in the future.
#4. Economics 101
Then, you need to learn what a business is, and how it works.
This may sound irrelevant, considering the goal is to turn someone into a responsible money manager, not a business owner. However, if you learn why different businesses and industries exist and how they relate to your personal budget, you’ll quickly discern where your paycheck should – and should not – go. This lesson will also improve your earning potential since valuable employees know what drives their employer forward.
#5. Growing and Protecting Your Dough
Finally, you’re ready for the task of deciding which investment choices are the best for you.
Once you’ve mastered the above “developmental milestones,” you can work on making your money grow. What should you do with that little cushion of cash you have at the end of each month? This lesson is the most fun of all because it represents options. In a world where many people don’t have financial choices, investment options are a luxury– and one worth studying.
All money management skills are learned. Sure, some people may be born with a personality that favors financial decision-making, but even the sharpest among us need to learn the skills it takes to handle money correctly.
With knowledge comes power, so no matter your age, commit to learning all you can about wealth management.
The great news about saving and investing money is that it’s never too late to start.
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Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
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