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6 Money Lessons We All Wish We Learned in High School

Growing up, it’s not common that we’re taught practical financial lessons in school. While geometry is usually on the curriculum, everyday skills like balancing a checkbook typically aren’t. As we reflect on what we wish we knew then, we’ve rounded up six money lessons that could have saved all of us a lot of time, headache and hassle if we learned them long ago. If you have a high-schooler or recent graduate of your own, feel free to share these tips with them - along with your own.

Lesson #1: How to Balance a Checkbook

Checkbooks are being used less and less in the financial world, but the same premise of balancing one applies to money today. Balancing a checkbook involves tracking how much is coming out of your account versus how much is coming in (think spending versus saving). This is a valuable lesson that needs to be learned at an early age, whether it’s with a checkbook, in a money-tracking app or through a bank’s budgeting software.

Lesson #2: The Basics of Budgeting

Budgeting is crucial to achieving your financial goals. The foundations used to establish a budget are basic, yet often overlooked.

Especially as high schools graduate and go on to start their career or attend college, there are monthly expenses they’ll need to learn to prepare for. These could include:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Car Payments
  • Groceries
  • Mortgage

For anyone looking to start a budget, the 50/20/30 rule of thumb is an effective place to start. Your after-tax income would be broken down into three categories:

  • 50 percent on needs (monthly bills, rent, etc.)
  • 20 percent goes directly into savings
  • 30 percent on wants (eating out, shopping, trips, etc.)

Lesson #3: How to Use a Credit Card

It’s pertinent that teenagers learn early on how a credit card works and, more importantly, how to avoid racking up high-interest debt. Credit card companies are notorious for soliciting to college-aged students and enticing them with attractive offers. But understanding the hidden dangers of accruing interest early on can save anyone hundreds (or thousands) in unnecessary debt.

When it comes to using a credit card, always remember:

  • You have to pay back what you charge
  • Credit card interest accrues daily when you carry a balance
  • Your interest rate can play a huge role in your monthly bill if you aren’t paying your charges completely off each month.

Lesson #4: How to Build Credit

Having a good credit score can make a big difference in how you manage your finances as an adult. If you have good credit, it can make things easier (and sometimes cheaper) when it comes to buying a house or car, qualify for an apartment and more. If you have bad credit, these tasks can be much more difficult, so it’s important to learn about this early on.

Building good credit can involve positive financial habits including paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low and limiting the amount of credit card accounts you open or use to an as-needed basis.

Lesson #5: How to Start a Business

Starting a business is probably not on most high schooler’s radar, but why not introduce something like this early on? Getting an introduction to the basics of starting a business is a great way to at least get them thinking about it as a potential career path. If they decide to do this later in life, they’ll already have the foundation of some basic business knowledge. 

Lesson #6: The Basics of the Stock Market

There’s no getting around it - the stock market is confusing, complicated and time-consuming. In fact, many adults today still carry around only a basic understanding of the market. Consider introducing your teenager to the basics of the stock market at an early age, giving them the foundational knowledge needed to understand the importance of investing in achieving larger financial goals. Even starting small now could yield large returns for your teenager later in life. Helping them understand long-term investments and how the market works now could be an impactful life lesson they’ll thank you for later.

You learn a lot of things in high school, and while many of those memories will last a lifetime, these useful financial lessons would have definitely helped with some stronger financial decisions in the future. Help your own teenager or grandchild hit the ground running with these helpful financial tips.

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