When I was a teenager, I received a lot of advice from older folks about just about every subject under the sun. However, there was one subject that must have eluded my elders’ tutoring sessions: money. My lack of training in how to successfully save money and spend it wisely caused me to suffer a few financial tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis over the past twenty-five years.
Money problems are not an issue most people, young or old, like to talk about. It is embarrassing for a teenager to explain to a friend that he cannot go to the movies because he has no money. It is just as embarrassing for a woman in her thirties to tell a mechanic she lacks the funds to make the needed repairs to her vehicle.
In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons so many people have money problems is the lack of education people receive about finances. Yes, I’m aware that books about debt-free living are available at just about every bookstore on the planet. But, usually, by the time a person decides to purchase one of these get-out-of-debt manuscripts, the bad financial habits are so entrenched in the person’s mindset that reform is nearly impossible.
Good habits concerning the handling of money must start in the teen years, when financial challenges are limited. A teenager should learn to save a certain percentage of his or her income, be it allowance money, job income, or financial gifts for birthdays and holidays. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as hast leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)
God wants his people to avoid making money the envy of their heart, but foolishly wasting away our finances as some kind of proof that we are obeying God’s will is not the action of a wise man – or a wise teen.
Romans 13:8 (NIV) tells us to “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” If, as followers of God’s Holy Word, we do not keep some sort of healthy savings account from which to pay off our incurring debts, then we are rejecting God’s commandments to diligently plan for the future and keep our debts paid up. Our inability to manage money is not a testament to our dedicated rejection of worshipping cash and coins. It is, however, a burden that can lead to many other problems (e.g. depression, anxiety, and anger).
Larry Burkett, a Christian author and a leading authority on business and personal finance, has an excellent book out about debt-free living. In fact, it is called “Debt-free Living, How to Get Out of Debt and Stay Out” (Moody Press – 1999). But it is my sincere belief that this book, and books like it, need to be in the hands of teenagers, where the practical suggestions can become early habits for young men and women growing into adulthood.
Saving, investing, making smart purchases, and thinking through choices concerning entertainment expenses are habits that must be developed early in life. They say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It has been my experience that for many adults in financial troubles this is exactly the case.
Teenagers who want to drive a car are trained in a classroom and inside an actual vehicle. This training is designed to make the teenage driver operate a motor vehicle correctly and safely. The same type of training is needed concerning financial matters that will present themselves during a normal lifetime. And if parents, educators, and governments aren’t up to the task, then the diligent teen must educate himself or herself concerning such matters.
I wish I had the “heads up” that I’ve just written when I was a teen. Anyone know where I can purchase a time machine? Oh, never mind, not enough in my savings account right now!