Money + Kids Part III: Teaching Kids Over 13 Financial Basics

About the Episode

From the basics of opening a bank account to learning the importance of saving from an early age, this week’s episode of Making it Count focuses on money lessons made just for teenagers. Cristina and Will are joined by Rod Griffin, Senior Director of Consumer Education & Advocacy at Experian, and Karina Rodriguez, Youth Ambassador here at Addition Financial. They both share great tips for parents with teens on what to teach their kids to help them grow into financially responsible adults (hopefully with minimal eyerolls).

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Will asks Question 1: “Okay, let’s jump in with something that I think is very important. Karina, how can parents teach teenagers about budgeting?”

Karina responds: “They should start by explaining that there are two elements of budgeting to know about: creating a budget and sticking to it. For example, when I had to pay my car insurance, car payment, gas, and Disney pass, I realized that I needed to create a category for entertainment in my budget so I wouldn’t overspend. There are a lot of great resources out there for parents to teach teens how to budget. I recommend budgeting apps like Mint or using the budgeting tool in your banking app.”  

Learn more: 7 Personal Finance Basics All High Schoolers Should Learn



Cristina asks Question 2: “Speaking of bank accounts, I think the teen years are when a lot of people learn about things like checking accounts and debit cards. Rod, what should parents tell their teenagers about banking?”

Rod responds: “I think parents should start with the basics of a checking account. Writing a check is a basic skill that all teenagers should learn. They should also understand how to use online banking apps, how to balance a checking account, and how to track their spending over time. Also, in today’s world everyone should be careful about the passwords they use. Teach your teenagers the importance of strong passwords for online accounts and where and when to use a debit card. It’s a good time to sign up for text alerts too, so they can be in the know about transactions on their accounts.”



Will asks Question 3: “You mentioned debit cards, but let’s talk about credit cards. Rod, should teenagers have credit cards?”

Rod responds: “Even though debit cards and credit cards look exactly the same, they’re actually very different. Debit cards are a tool used to access your checking account, while credit cards can help you build a credit history over time.”

“I think it’s a good idea for older teenagers from the age of 16 to be added to their parent’s credit card as an authorized user. This will allow them to learn about credit and build a credit history as they become adults. You can also control access to the credit card if they’re linked to your account so they don’t go overboard with spending.”

“Another tool I suggest is a secured account. For example, if a teenager has a savings account and links it to their credit card, they can actually build a credit history and savings at the same time. However, secured accounts are only a good idea if it’s managed carefully.”

Learn more: How to Get a Credit Card: 5 Application Tips



Cristina asks Question 4: “Speaking of debt, let’s get into college. By the time they’re in their sophomore year of high school, a lot of teens are already thinking about going to college. Karina, what should teens know about college loans?”

Karina responds: “They should understand that saddling themselves with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt at a young age is going to impact their lives for a long time. They should start researching schools and comparing tuition early.”

“There are also alternatives to taking out loans. Teens can apply for both scholarships and grants. While schools offer money based on applicants’ grades and academic history, it’s rare for someone to get a full ride unless they’re at the top of their class. Outside scholarships and grants can help bridge that gap.”

Learn more: High School Hacks: How to Pay for College Tuition Without Loans



Will asks Question 5: “Let’s change tracks and get into investing. A lot of parents don’t talk to teenagers about investing, but, Rod, should they be talking about it?”

Rod responds: “Yeah, absolutely. There’s so much going on in the world of technology right now like Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency. Understanding how to save for retirement when you’re 17 is almost impossible. But if you’re teaching teenagers how to safely invest at an early age, there is a significant chance they will become more prepared for retirement in the future.”



Cristina asks Question 6: “Investing is important but so is savings. Karina, what should teenagers know about saving money?”

Karina responds: “Saving is important for both the future and the present. Whenever I visit high schools and colleges, I always encourage people to start saving since these habits will help them in the long run.”

“Also, teenagers are old enough to create an emergency fund and understand why it’s necessary to have one. This is one area where the pandemic may work in parents’ favor because the financial uncertainty that some teens have experienced can help them understand emergency funds. Teaching teenagers how to create short-term goals is another way to teach them about saving money.”

Learn more: How to Manage Your Money Effectively on Any Budget



Will asks Question 7: “Okay, last question before we take a break. Rod, what about credit reports? What should parents teach their teens about credit scores and creditworthiness?”

Rod responds: “That’s a really good question, believe it or not there are actually some adults who don’t understand how to read a credit report. Understanding how credit scores are calculated and how to read your credit report is a skill that every young person should have in their financial toolbox.”

“Teens should know the difference between a FICO score and a VantageScore and what each score means. They should also check their credit reports frequently online at or at Experian. Understanding your credit score is empowering because it’ll enable you to get loans to buy a house or a car with the best rates available to your score.”

Learn more: The Credit Score (300-850) Explained

High School and College Graduation Preparation Checklist


Cristina asks Quick Question 1: “Karina, what should teens know about researching financial options?”

Karina responds: “They should always research even if they think they know the answer to a question! There are tons of opportunities to save money by comparing prices online and understanding where their money is going. I would add that it’s always worth asking for a better deal or discount when you’re talking to someone about a service. The worst thing that will happen is that they’ll say no.”



Cristina asks Quick Question 2: “What was the first thing you bought with your credit card?”

Karina responds: “Gas was the first thing I used my credit card on. Oh, and Taco Bell! My other first purchase was an army jacket from American Eagle on sale for $20. Another important thing my parents taught me was that if you can’t pay something off immediately, you probably shouldn’t use your credit card.”


Will asks Quick Question 3: “Rod, should teens file their own taxes?

Rod responds: “Yes, absolutely, at least with adult supervision. It’s important to understand that when you earn money, you have to pay taxes. It’s a great lesson for all teenagers to learn. It sets them up for Social Security benefits and savings in the future. Filing taxes help them become financially responsible and independent adults as well.”



Will asks Quick Question 4: “What was a misconception you had about money when you were a teenager?”

Rod responds: “When I got my first paycheck, I was completely unaware about taxes. I had to learn that part of my money was going to the state government, the federal government, and the school district. When I first learned about these deductions, it was definitely shocking to see your check go from a couple hundred dollars to significantly less.”



In every episode, we like to share resources with our listeners to make it count in the real world. The first resource is the High School and College Graduation Preparation Checklist. It’s got some great money tips for teenagers who are preparing to graduate. The second resource is Addition Financial’s TikTok page all about financial education. It reviews topics such as the difference between a debit card and a credit card, what’s on your W-2, and how to create a savings account.

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