How to help your young adult manage money wisely

Alane Zlotnicki

Few milestones reveal what our kids understand about money more than when they go off to college for the first time or earn that first paycheck. 

The way our children handle money at the beginning of their financial life is critical to their well-being for the rest of their life. God has given us parents the responsibility to train them wisely, and that includes money management (Proverbs 22:6-8). 

Often the freedom of college or a first job leads young adults to make poor financial decisions. Even if we haven’t modeled good financial habits ourselves, we can help them avoid our mistakes. Besides teaching the basics of budgeting, there are four things parents can give their children to help them get a good start in a way that honors God.

Four Skills Young Adults Need to Manage Money Wisely

1. Obedience to God 

By far the most important financial habit we can teach our children is tithing. Giving the first 10 percent of their gross income, whether it’s a stipend, allowance, or paycheck, shows they trust God's provision, and helps them develop a healthy attitude toward the other 90 percent. 

In Malachi 3:10 and Proverbs 3:9, God challenges us to test Him to bless the 90 percent if we are faithful to give Him the first 10 percent. Once our children understand this truth, they will have a firm foundation for the rest.

2.  Perspective on the value of a dollar

That first paycheck feels like a million dollars to a young adult who’s used to an allowance or babysitting money. Helping our kids see their expenses in relation to the hours of work rather than just the amount can be a powerful tool for reining in spending. 

Next time they see a stylish pair of pants, have them calculate the number of hours they have to work to pay for them. Are those designer jeans really worth seven hours waiting tables?

3.  Financial goals 

Especially when kids head to college, you may need to help them set a specific goal. If they want to live in an apartment rather than the dorm, encourage them to save money to cover the difference in cost and any extra expenses. This encourages saving and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing expenses (Proverbs 21:5).

4.  An understanding of how debt works

Make sure your child understands the concept of interest. Sure, they can put that new cellphone on a credit card. But it could end up costing twice as much as the original price. 

The sooner our kids develop an aversion to debt, the healthier their financial future will be. The Bible says that the borrower is the slave of the lender, and that includes Visa and American Express (Proverbs 22:7).

Money has the potential to be a source of stress or a source of blessing in life. Guiding our young adult children to use this tool wisely sets them up for a lifetime of obedience and blessings, for themselves and for others.

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