The teenage years are often the time in young people’s lives when the value of a dollar, and how to earn it, become very important. Unfortunately, in the past 15 years, the share of 16- to 19-year olds who are working has dropped from half to a third, according to a Brookings Institution report; roughly 1.1 million teenagers would like a job, but can’t find one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teens today must compete in the job market – at 16 – with adults who are vying for what were once considered teen-centric jobs.
On the Road to Financial Independence
Of course there is more to money than just earning it – although that seems an essential place to begin. Teens also need to learn how to use credit wisely, save for college, budget for an iPhone (not every parent can be so generous) or purchase their first car. Budding young entrepreneurs may be looking for help to give their business idea a go in the marketplace. Then there’s learning to invest and manage one’s savings.
So where can teens start their financial education? Here, in no particular order, is a financial reading list geared toward teens, based on reviews from a variety of financial experts and parents.
“The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of” by David and Tom Gardner, with Selena Marajian
Since 1993, the creators of The Motley Fool have been educating the masses on finance. Best-selling authors, the Garner brothers offer teens their standard witty, edgy and easy-to-read style. Right off the bat, the book provides a road map for forging a successful financial journey from investing, saving, budgeting and spending – and it does a great job reminding teens that “every dollar you spend is an investment.”
“O.M.G.: Official Money Guide for Teenagers” by Susan Beacham and Michael Beacham
Banker Susan Beacham and her husband, Michael, are founders of Money Savvy Generation, a financial education company geared toward youth. This personal finance book, the winner of the 2015 EIFLE (Excellence in Financial Literacy Education), includes tips for teens to avoid what the authors call “awkward money moments,” how to protect themselves from identity theft (yes, it does happen to young people) and more. For those readers with short attention spans, this slim read is a mere 48 pages long and chock-full of tips, money charts, advice and suggestions for making smart financial choices.
“The Complete Guide to Personal Finance: For Teenagers” by Tamsen Butler
Recommended by Forbes magazine and the winner of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Butler’s book is an entertaining and useful read. The chapter “Creditors and the Games They Play” is an especially good one for teens headed off to college, where they will be the target of credit card companies’ vast offerings for students.
“The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton
Perfect for those who like their financial advice delivered with a narrative arc. Chilton’s story is centered on three young protagonists and (yes, you guessed it) a fictional barber. In the story, the young people’s parents send them to the local barber, who has turned a low-wage job into a successful financial future (complete with millions in the bank). The barber imparts his story, along with solid financial advice on everything from wills to taxes. It may be more homespun than hip, but it offers clear, concise and down-to-earth lessons.
“The Richest Kids in America: How They Earn It, How They Spend It, How You Can Too” by Mark Victor Hansen
This book was written in 2009, so there may be more rich kids in America now than listed in this book, but it remains an engaging read for young adults. The kids (ages 9 to 23) are great role models for budding entrepreneurs, young investors and those seeking a positive financial future. Hansen is also the creator of the bestselling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, but don’t tell that to your teen; it may sound “uncool” and the smart kids in this book are anything but.
“Financial Basics: A Money Management Guide for Students” by Susan Knox
This book is geared toward college students, but the lessons imparted here (on debit and credit cards, student loans, emergency funds and more) can be used by teens, too. Think of it as a college prep course in book form. Knox never patronizes her audience, and she includes helpful worksheets designed to get the reader started on a financial plan.
“Why Didn't They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By” by Cary Siegel
While this book is directed to graduates, it is appropriate for those in the upper grades in high school. Siegel’s book is a crash course in money management, with his 99 principles divided into lessons that include debit and credit, investing, housing, spending and budgeting, and even one titled “life” – where he writes about the importance of handling the financial aspects of your personal relationships with friends, romantic prospects, colleagues and others. An easy read with a good hook, it offers plenty of solid advice about money and adulthood.
The Bottom Line
Getting teens to consider their financial future (if they haven’t started when they were younger) is worth the investment. These books offer simple suggestions, solutions and, we hope, for some, inspiration, about how to manage their money for years to come.
You may also want to read Investopedia’s tutorial Teaching Financial Literacy To Teens. Parents of younger children can get a head start with 6 Finance Books Every Child Should Read and 10 Tips to Teach Your Child to Save Money.