We'll be honest: young
people nowadays learn a lot more now than when we, ahem, more
"experienced" folks were their age. But while many of today's young
adults are comfortable with texting, Skype, Twitter and such, the
skills one needs to live in the Real World are frequently a little
Just because they know their way around Facebook, doesn't mean
they can keep a checkbook balanced, for example.
It's not anyone's fault, really. People just don't fall out of
the sky knowing how to keep a household, keep track of finances or
even pay taxes. The problem is, many times we parents forget to
give the younger generation the tools they need to operate on their
It all sounds pretty basic, but it's true. Many times we don't
educate our youngsters so they can safely navigate that minefield
called Life. One co-worker once told us, "I can't be out of money.
I still have checks left."
The sad part was, she was serious. It's another case of economic
whiplash. One day, these kids are in school, living at home, only a
part-time job and hardly a care in the world. They blink, and Wham!
They're on their own, with rent, full-time job, a car payment;
maybe they're even married with a child. And yep, they have to do
their own taxes.
And they're lost.
The School of Hard Knocks can be a pretty tough road sometimes,
and it's not all that efficient. To us, it makes much more sense to
prepare our young people for the everyday practical challenges life
presents -- before they find themselves knee-deep in overdraft
Here are some general guidelines we think can help guide our
young adults in making logical, positive choices in their new lives
as Productive Members of Society:
Some of us didn't see the business end of a checkbook -- the
register -- until we were out on our own. It would make sense for
parents to set up a register of sorts so kids could track their
allowance, their spending -- and their balance. OK, we understand
that some folks think paper is SO old-school, so you could do it on
the computer as well. The point is that youngsters understand where
their money comes from -- and what happens when it runs out.
Those of us who've "been around the block a few times" can be a
great source of knowledge for soon-to-be taxpayers. Take that son
or daughter about to head to college or work aside, and go over
your economic routine with them -- paying a house note, figuring
property taxes, maybe even the finer points of car maintenance.
Resist the temptation to lecture; instead, educate. We
think just being familiar with the personal finance process can
enable young adults to make better choices.
If you do your own taxes, have your "student" sit with you while
you go over the forms, whether paper or electronic. Understanding
how the process works will cut down on the intimidation factor. One
of the lessons here should be to file on time every year. The best
way to avoid tax worries is with preparation.
If you use a professional tax preparer for your yearly taxes,
introduce your youngster to your preparer. Your youngster might
choose to take the same route, and familiarity could work in
everyone's favor. Many long-term relationships have been formed in
just this way.
Whether it's a purpose-made financial document storage system, a
set of file pockets or just a cigar box, give your young adult a
way to start his own record-keeping system. Organizational skills
are important, whether going off to school, the military -- or
setting up his own housekeeping for the first time.
Those are a few thoughts to get you started. Of course, you
probably have more lessons you'd like to pass on. Hopefully, the
more knowledge we hand over to the younger generation, the fewer
mistakes they'll make.