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12 Things Every Teenager Needs To Know About Money (And How To Teach Them)

Credit Cards Will Steal Your Lunch Money

You may remember when you got your first credit card. Perhaps, you just moved out on your own for the first time and someone offered you a piece of plastic with a seemingly endless supply of money.

Sounded to good to be true didn’t it?!

Of course it did, but we all took it anyway and started swiping it anywhere and everywhere the card was accepted. But then do you remember the day you got your first statement in the mail?

Not one of your brighter moments in life.

You’d been on this wild and crazy shopping spree but when that bill showed up, you quickly came down from the clouds and realized you owed a lot more money than you had. And thus began your college career of eating ramen noodles for breakfast and Kraft Mac & Cheese for every other meal.


Because credit cards had stolen your lunch money.

Dramatic story isn’t it?

So how do you keep this far-too-common life experience from occurring to your teen?

Teach Them How Credit Cards Work

It seems self-explanatory. You swipe your card now, and you pay for it later. It’s not that difficult right? But you and I both know there is more to credit cards than that. Teach your teen about interest rates, hidden fees, and how the use of that card will affect their credit score. A lot of students find themselves in a credit card mess, because they weren’t taught this stuff. Were you? Probably not.

Teach Them The Dangers of Credit Cards

I’ve seen statistics that show the average college student has anywhere from $2,700 to $3,300 in credit card debt. And about 10% of college students owe more than $7,000! And to think that all a credit card company is going to give you for the opportunity to rack up this debt is a measly t-shirt you’ll wear twice. No thanks…I’ll pass.

Teach Them To Live Without One

Rather than running the risk of a credit card stealing your lunch money, teach your teen to not be dependent on one. The best kind of plastic is a debit card or just good ole’ fashioned cash will do the job. If you can instill this mindset in your child at a young age, you’ll potentially save them years of heartache and financial problems.

This series, “12 Things Every Teenager Needs To Know About Money (And How To Teach Them)”, is a community blog experience.  This post is only one of the 12 points in the series. To view the other 11, please visit the list of links below.

This is a guest post from Grant Baldwin, the author of Reality Check, a book about helping students transition into the real world.  His new website,, answers questions from teenagers about personal finance, savings, and all things money.

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Last Edited: May 30, 2017 @ 9:01 am
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a former practicing CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of FinCon, the conference and community dedicated to helping other financial influencers and brands. He created this website back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money, hold himself accountable, and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

PT uses Personal Capital to keep track of his financial life. This free software allows him to review his net worth regularly, analyze his investments, and make decisions about his financial future.

PT keeps a portion of his emergency fund in Betterment, the automatic investing tool that makes investing super simple. Betterment focuses on what matters most: savings rate, time in the market, investing costs, and taxes. PT recommends this service to anyone looking to get started investing for themselves.

All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. MoneyEnergy says:

    Like everyone else, I also got my first card when I first went to university… but I had been warned ahead of time about the “dangers” – I think credit cards are an extremely important financial tool, if you can learn to pay them off in full each month. Otherwise, the dangers apply… 🙂

  2. I think the last point about teaching them that a credit card is not necessary should not be overlooked. I remember when I got my first credit card it was almost just a right of passage into adulthood for me. I never racked up a ton of debt on it but I got it because I thought all adults had credit cards. Later when I learned my Aunt never had a credit card and paid cash for everything it blew my mind.

  3. chris johnson says:

    I think every one should have one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Grant @ says:

    Thanks for your involvement in this series PT!

  5. her every cent counts says:

    Yes, everyone should know CREDIT CARDS ARE EVIL if you don’t pay off your bill each month.

    I’m really enjoying this series. Check out my Q&A with BrokePiggy’s Grant Baldwin (not officially part of the series, but if you’re interested in his story and why he started BrokePiggy, check it out)

  6. I was lucky to have parents who instilled in me the fear of credit cards. They warned me constantly not to get one, and I never have. It was one of the most important lessons my parents ever taught me.

  7. Nice. I was 30 before I learned all of that!

  8. I remember my first credit cards. I started off pretty responsible but eventually went bonkers with the “free” money!