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Teens & Money

Advice, discussions, and reviews from the Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Money



Helping teen manage her money

July 2005

My daughter will soon be a junior at BHS. She has very little experience with money management I want to help her learn to manage a weekly allowence that will include her entertainment, snacks, and drug store needs. What are parents of kids this age doing to help their kids learn money management? How much allowance is reasonable for a 16 year old girl? Your thoughts and or ideas very much appreciated. Janet


For my two teens at Berkeley High, I got out of the 'human ATM' role by opening a checking account for each of them. I fund the account at the beginning of the month with a set amount ($150), and it is their responsibility to budget and make it last. The accounts have ATM cards so they can get cash or pay for things via EFT. If they run out of money, they have to bring lunch, walk, skip movies, etc. I am a co-owner of the accounts so I can go online and see where they're spending their money, transfer funds, etc. This is also extremely handy for my daughter's clothes shopping trips, where she'd rather go with her friends than with me, but I worry about her carrying a lot of cash. She pays with the ATM, and I transfer funds to cover her purchases. Lisa
See also: Caution about checking accounts for teens

19-year-old's constant requests for cash

June 2002

We had another uproar with our 19-year old (yes, 19!) who just can't live with the limits we want to place on what we are providing in the way of money. OK, we are a fairly affluent family - both of us are lawyers - but we support 4 kids (two in college) plus my husband's exwife and we have a nanny for the youngest, so despite the fact there is a lot of money coming in the door, there is a lot going out, too. The 19 year old in question just finished her freshman year at an extremely expensive school back east. Her older brother goes to a UC school. We told her when she was applying for schools that if she wanted to go to the expensive school, we would pay for tuition, room and board, books but that she would have to earn the money for her personal expenses. She agreed that was perfectly fair. She returned home on May 24 and isn't planning to start working until June 25. Since then we've had two HUGE arguments about money. First, that she wants money for food. We told her we would buy any groceries she wants - just put it on the list - but we weren't going to give her money (what she really wants is money so she can eat out with her friends). She ranted and raved but we held firm. Last night it was gas for her car (yes, she has a car of her own which we pay insurance but the gas is supposed to be her responsibility). Writing this I feel like she is SO spoiled I am embarrassed. She began sobbing and saying that she HAD to be able to drive around and it was SO expensive to buy gas, how could we be so cruel? The other issue was underwear - couldn't we puh-leeze buy her some underwear? I think she chose this on purpose rather than, for example, a pair of jeans, because it sounds so pathetic - how could your parents refuse to buy you underwear? Then she says that all of her friends have internships this summer which will help them with their careers which she knew she couldn't even consider because we were forcing her to work. My husband started to react to this total guilt trip, and suggested that we go over her budget with her. I don't think that's right - it's just a ploy on her part to get us to sign on for paying for something other than what we agreed. I've offered to pay her for babysitting the youngest child (a mere 5 hours of babysitting a week would yield $40 - a good tank of gas plus a pair of underwear every week!) and she semi-agrees but whenever I need her she has other plans. I just feel like we need to hold firm on this - we've made every reasonable concession and she just wants us to maintain a lifestyle for her where she gets everything she wants and doesn't have to work. What is wrong? Is she just a totally spoiled brat? Just immature? Any ideas on what to do other than what we've been doing?


Just a thought, but was your daughter "pmsing" or on her period during this "uproar"? As some of us know, it's often the end of the world during that time of the month. If she was under the influence of hormones, then maybe it would be easier to understand her seemingly desperate demands.
Just happened to see in Tuesday's Chronicle (6/18) on page A2 an article titled ,"Kids able to figure out at an early age that nagging usually works. Survey says parents susceptible to whining." With a cute cartoon of a kid throwing a fit. Sounds like it works very well for your daughter. In the short run it's easier to give in to her; in the long run it's worse for all of you. It's especially not effective as an adult out in the world (I know - I was this way). Stick to your guns. She has MUCH more than her basic needs covered. In some ways as a parent of little means I actually think that not having a lot of money may be an advantage in a similar situation - there's nothing to discuss. It's obvious that you know EXACTLY what needs to be done. Seems like your husband may need more support in not caving. Joan
I encourage you to hold the line with your 19 year old daughter. If she needs money she can work. My daughter (almost 18) has an amazing sense of entitlement and I have to keep reminding myself that after she's 18 I don't have any responsibility for her financially. She's an ADULT, after all--- as she has been telling me for the last 6 months. If teens want to be adults (they assume there are lots of privileges accompanying this status) then they can take on the responsibilities that adults carry: making money to pay for your own needs and wants! By providing a place for her to live you are already giving her *a lot*. If she doesn't think so, give her a chance to find a place to live on her own..... Another frustrated mom
HI-- I felt so touched by your level of emotion. Just looking at the outside--the "wrapper" of the issues--it struck me that your daughter may be using these issues to seek connection with you & her father. Imagine all the experiences she's had alone in the past year. There must be so much she'd like to express to you & can't find the right way to put it out there. To ask for money is to ask you to nourish her, to take care of her, to make her your little girl again because she's had to be so responsible for herself all alone this past school year. I have all these same things with my 15 year old and certainly don't have any exalted level of patience, but sometimes, when it's not your child or family, insights come more easily. I think I would seek a space for intimacy with her--a way to share that's informative & non-judgmental. A good family or teen therapist would be a great gift to get closer t! o ! her. I'm not a professional therapist, just a mom. I remember at times when I was in my 30's during the late ''70's I so longed for some parenting. I believe our task is always to get closer to them & it's really challenging. Best to you.
Parent of 19 year old, I advise you stick to your rules. She does not need your money; she needs to find a balance in her life. She probably had a tough first year away and needs to know she is loved, cared for and will be taken care of; that she hasn't been removed from the family's protection (by way of financial withholding). I think you can address the feelings behind her demands rather than the demands themself. They are only a way of saying, tell me you still will care for me even though I've been away and the family has continued without me. When something that seems so unreasonable happens, I wonder why and think about the emotions behind the demand. Just a thought.... And sticking to the original agreement can say, I trust you can care for yourself, you can trust us to be dependable and to mean what we all agree to. We'll continue to help you set limits. K
To the parent of the 19 year old who wants more money: I encourage you to stand firm. Yes, your daughter does sound "spoiled" (especially since you're offering her chances to earn money). I completely understand your embarassment, but don't feel at all critical of you. I think our generation has been very confused about how much to give to our kids monetarily and these kids have grown up as a result with an out-of-whack sense of entitlement and expectation that is both individually and collectively harmful. It coincides with increasing materialism, wastefulness necessitated by continually updated products and technology, and a culture that eats out as entertainment, where a $3 coffee is an every day event rather than a treat.

All of a sudden, I started to sound too righteous to myself--as if I resist all this. I can't believe how much money I (and my family) spends on clothes, on "things" and on (gourmet) food. I can feel, and understand, the compulsion to acquire and to spend money. And my teenagers feel conflicted about money as well. I think that they are, on the one hand, grateful for all that they have, but on the other, they have always felt "poor," and, I think, deprived, in comparison to their friends. It pains me that my daughter has stopped hanging around with a group of previously close friends because they always have more disposable money to spend than she does--I start to think we should give her more, or feel inadequate for not having more. But I also believe that learning about limits is probably the most important lesson we all, as humans, have to learn--it's very existential--goes to the heart of basic philosphical, psychological and theological dilemmas--it has to do, ultimately, with our individual mortality and the continued existence of the planet. (So stand firm--it's not about underwear.)


Your words are very much the way I feel about my 18 year old teenager. We try to provide her with the best, she has a truck, I pay for her insurance, buy food etc. We have exactly the same issues - she had a job and got fired for being late all the time and doesn't appear to be making much effort to find another. Due to much nagging on my part and her step-dad she is finally job hunting.

I was speaking to my mother about my daughter and she advised you need to "cut her off" and if she doesn't shape up tell her to leave the house. Like I did you brother. Apparently my younger brother had the same problems - no intentions of working - sleeping in until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Anyway I am taking my mom's advice, as hard as it is, I am "cutting her off" haven't reached the point of asking her to leave.

Consequently we are having the same fights - just the other day she stole $10.00 of her 15 year old brother - which I remember my own brother doing to me - yet another argument ensued about the morality of stealing money - she gave it back in the end. Nevertheless, due to the support from my own mother I am sticking to my plan to "cut her off." Yes I do sometimes feel guilty, but you have to remind yourself and her, that you love her and you will always be there for her, but she has to do her part.

I don't know, but I think its a struggle for teenagers - they want independence, but still cling onto mom and dad - ironically my brother (the one my mother "cut off" and asked to leave) is also complaining about his 18 year old son. He is now wondering what to do and remembers what my parents did to him - looking back with hind sight he agrees they did the right thing.

These are good kids we are talking about - as hard as it my seem if we stick to our plans with patience, your daughter, my daughter and all the other teenagers will come through in the end. Good luck to all of us.


To the parents whose 19 year-old daughter has just returned I have two suggestions: Why don't you loan her some "living expense" money until she gets her job. As adults, some of us have also had the experience of being "between jobs" (as your daughter) and broke while waiting for the first check. Sometimes our families have been in the economic position to help us out. The second suggestion is to pay her for chores around the house.
ABSOLUTELY stand firm!! If you give in now, you'll be supporting her in making easy or irresponsible choices for the foreseeable future. She is legally of age now and its time for her to begin becoming a responsible adult. Working during the summer for personal expenses is not asking alot for a 19 year old that you're footing the whole college bill for - she is definitely trying to guilt trip you (sounds like the last gasp of the little toddler in her threatening to hold her breath if she doesn't get what she wants!!). I'd tell her that IF she shows the initiative next year to obtain an internship that a "stipend" could be worked out, but that not working at all and expecting to be supported is just "not happening". Maybe she's hanging out with a crowd that is more affluent than she is and whose future is to be the "idle rich". If that's the case, she may also need a reality check about being from a family where folks WORK for a living.

Believe me, I'm not judging you for your spoiled daughter. I think many of us who are in the fortunate position of having $ to do for our children find it difficult to figure out just what the limits of "doing" should be. I have a middle schooler and increasingly I'm beginning to see that I will have to STOP buying him stuff when he ignores my suggestion that he make $ for his "wants" by walking dogs, cutting lawns, weeding, washing cars, and "light" babysitting. Money is coming too easily to him and he's beginning to see us giving him money as his right (sounds like that's where your daughter is). I now see that one of the biggest favors my father did for me was to insist that I pay for more and more of my "wants" starting in 9th grade (we were comfortably middle class but certainly my father worked hard and long hours for that privilege) - at the time I hated him for it when many of my friends had the family credit card to take boutique shopping a! nd! I was counting my babysitting money to see if I could afford to buy something on sale or in a discount store (though I developed a LOVE for bargains). But seeing my son makes me realize that experience really made me appreciate the link between working and having as well as the value of saving and deferred gratification and though its hard, I'm starting to say NO, if you want it you work for it. STAND YOUR GROUND. Karen


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