DR. WALLACE: I recently started working a new job that pays well and that I’ve really grown to enjoy. I got my first paycheck and it seemed like I spent most of it immediately shopping and spending time with my friends.
I want to be better with saving my money while also being able to enjoy the money that I have worked for. What budgeting practices should I implement? I’m still a teenager in case you were wondering! — New Employee, via email
NEW EMPLOYEE: Congratulations! Working for your own funds is a very satisfying endeavor especially when you enjoy the type of work you’re engaged in. I recommend that you start by having a parent, relative or friend refer you to a local bank or financial institution they use to open an account with. Be sure to speak with the employees at this institution to acquire the right account that will minimize monthly fees due to balances below a particular threshold. You may or may not wish to set up a checking account in addition to a savings account. In today’s world there are many financial options, so find one that works well for your situation. Some organizations have “brick-and-mortar” buildings and locations while others operate online only. Go with the one that best suits your needs as long as you can check it out and be sure it’s reputable.
Next, set a goal to save a certain percentage of your earnings. For some this might be 20%, 25% or even 50% or more. Aim to keep your savings building up and resist the temptation to withdraw your savings simply to spend more money for present desires on the shopping trips and outings with friends you’re spending funds on now.
If you find that you wish you had a bit more discretionary funds to spend, don’t lower your percentage of savings; instead seek to work more hours or days if possible! Learning to save and budget your own personal capital is a tremendous skill to build as a young person. Get started right away and take pride in seeing your savings grow. It’s a great feeling to know that every paycheck you receive will both provide you with current funds to use and also continue to build your savings larger and larger. Keep up the good work and start paying attention to your finances. That’s a great habit to build at a young age.
DR. WALLACE: I’ll start my letter to you by confessing that I’m a parent, not a teenager. However, I have a great interest in teenagers since my daughter just turned 13 years old last week and she is now going to officially be a teenager for the next seven years! I have no doubt there will be great changes that she and I will go through on this journey together.
I’ve been divorced from my ex-husband for the past five years and my daughter is my only child, so we spend a lot of time together. She’s always been very well behaved and conscientious, and of course I want that to continue from now until she turns 20 and beyond. I remember my own teenage years and how difficult they were for me back then, so this has me thinking about how I can be the best possible mother for my daughter, especially at this time.
What is the top piece of advice you can give a new parent of a first-time teenager? — Now The Mom of a Teen, via email
NOW THE MOM OF A TEEN: Congratulations on your new status and thank you for caring enough to write in with the desire of helping your daughter as much as you possibly can at this point in her life.
Over the years I’ve come to understand that without a doubt, the most important thing a parent can do to help a teen develop is to be involved in their life and to carefully listen to what their teenager says. Encourage mild, topical discussions whenever possible and always communicate. Of course, you should let your daughter know that you love her, and tell her that you’ll always be there for her no matter what happens. Tell her she can always come to you for advice, or to discuss any type of situation, challenge or problem that she encounters in the future. Let her know that you will always seek to protect her best interests without being judgmental.
Start out with this mantra now at her age of 13 and plan to continue it over the years. When a teenager feels comfortable enough to trust a parent fully, it opens up a special bond and elevates the interpersonal relationship to safe and secure levels. Remember that from your perspective, you should be careful not to ask intimidating or accusatory questions ever, if possible. The reason for this is you are much more likely to receive complete and quality information about the subject of concern to your daughter than if you push her to clam up.
Every human being wants to be heard, and for teenagers, this goes up by a factor of three or four in my opinion. Keep the communications flowing and open without becoming (or being perceived to be) overbearing or too nosy. There’s an art to communicating with a teenager, so evaluate your discussions regularly so that you can course-correct to do more of what works and promotes bonding and trust and less of anything that triggers the opposite of this. Good luck on this journey and I wish you both all the best during her exciting teen years.