Five Things Your Teenager Needs to Know Before College


Courtesy of Foundations in Personal Finance

The numbers don’t lie.

The average college student graduates with nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. More than 40 million Americans currently have student loans—a larger number than the entire population of 190-plus countries, including Canada, Poland, and Australia.

The problem here is that the younger generations in America have been taught that debt is okay, and those statistics reflect that. Most students don’t know the basics about money—why debt is bad, why saving matters, and how to budget.

You can change this trend, starting in your home. By teaching your kids a healthy view of money before they go to college, you’ll put them in a great position to succeed early in life.

As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to empower your children with life-changing financial principles, and we can help.

So what exactly do they need to know?

  • Debt is Not Okay

Student loans, car payments, credit cards—they’re a way of life for most people. Your kids will probably hear all about “good debt versus bad debt” at some point. But there’s no such thing. All debt is bad debt. It complicates your life, adds unneeded stress, and places a huge obstacle in your path as soon as you graduate college. Make sure your kids know to avoid debt at all costs.

  • You Won’t Build Wealth Without a Budget

The budget is your plan. It’s how you tell your money where to go—before the month begins—instead of wondering where it went at the end of the month. A budget will help your student avoid overspending on things like pizza, video games, and late-night movies while they’re away at college.

  • You Can Be a Student Without a Loan

It’s possible. We promise! Scholarships, grants, in-state public schools, and an old-fashioned job are great ways to avoid having another 22-year-old who graduates with $30,000 in debt. And, as a parent, make sure you’re funding college in an ESA or 529 after you are out of debt, have a full emergency fund, and have started investing for retirement.

  • Live Generously

Give. Give. Give. You simply can’t go wrong with giving, because that’s what God’s called us to do, right? Something changes in your spirit when you become a giver. You focus less on yourself and see the needs of others more. One of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them to appreciate and understand the power of giving before they go out on their own.

  • Start the Process of Discovering What You Love to Do

Too many kids go to college, randomly pick a major, and start careers they’re not the least bit passionate about. It’s time to break that cycle! An 18-year-old doesn’t need to know the career they want to work in, but they should at least begin the process of examining their strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

We know that you love your student and want to see them succeed in all things, including money. If you’re serious about putting your kids on the right track financially, we can help.

Our homeschool curriculum is designed to make it easy for you to teach your high school student all the above principles, plus many others. These are the lessons you wish you had in high school—and, now, you can give that gift to them!

More than 25,000 homeschool families across the country have used Foundations in Personal Finance: High School Edition for Homeschool curriculum to teach their teens the truth about debt, how to make a budget that works, and how investing early will help them build wealth so they can live generously.

Did You Know?

April is National Financial Literacy Month, and we’re celebrating in a big way with Dave Ramsey’s $55,000 Financial Literacy Challenge! The Challenge invites high school students to complete a brief money survey and test their personal finance knowledge through a 15-question quiz. High school seniors can enter for a chance to win one of three college scholarships – including one worth $40,000! Freshmen, sophomores and juniors can enter for a chance to win one of three Chromebook 2 laptops. The Challenge ends April 25, so make sure your student enters today at!

11 thoughts on “Five Things Your Teenager Needs to Know Before College

  1. I wish that when I was a teen, and worked a lot and had money, that I would have been taught how to save. I learned through not having any money during my 20s & 30s when I was making tons of money. My husband and I took several Christian base finance classes and I started saving 10% & tithing 10%. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. Now we are always taken care of by God!


  2. When my two are given $ for holidays and birthdays, they are encouraged to find ways to stretch that money through smart shopping and saving. When they are given $ for various jobs, they are to give 10% to church. We also model savings, tithing/offering and giving to charities.


  3. I’m not teaching anything right now but I wanted to do something with my kids where they are given a salary and have to pay things like rent, meals, and entertainment at home. With Monopoly money. Something simple but to give them a start in budgeting.


  4. Looking forward to using this curriculum as part of our high school home schooling. Want to help our children avoid some of the financial mistakes that we made.


  5. Dave Ramsey is GREAT! And I am so glad that he and his team have taken the time to create a “curriculum” to help the rest of us teach our kids, instead of making them figure it out the hard way. And I am SO excited that even our local public schools are starting to use this! At least they are doing that right!


  6. We have three children. Our oldest graduated from college, got married, and earned a master’s degree debt free. He did this by working full-time while going to school full-time. He and his wife purchased their home their second year of marriage. Our second child graduated from college debt free and upgraded his car upon graduation. Our youngest is finishing his freshman year of college. He had to look for another job to pay his bill at school. His current employer didn’t want to lose him so he told his boss that he needed more hours and more pay; his request was accepted.
    Our children were taught to tithe from the time they first received money for birthdays and Christmas. My husband taught them the value of money and a strong work ethic, and by God’s grace those values continue to be part of their lives even though they no longer live in our home.


  7. Currently, we have all our eight children save, tithe, and have a spending bank so they can learn to be good stewards of their money. However, how does one not go in to debt when it comes time to buy a home or buy their first car? These tips would be very good to learn.


  8. @gyetvaimom—you buy a first car that is one dollar above clunker. Whatever you can afford is the key. Maybe—like Dave did—match what your kids are willing to pay allowing them to get a better car. I took my good used Honda that I was driving at the time and sold it to my kids when they were ready. I knew the quality of the car, and they learned the value. Be creative. Make sure they have skin in the game though!


  9. Money is only a part of the picture—a crucial part—but nonetheless, a part. Based on your student’s personality blend, they will either struggle with seeking value and restraint, or they will embrace it—naturally. How they are “wired” will determine what strategies and tactics they will need to employ to get to wise spending and saving. Teaching your students to save is a great start. Always do it. Once they leave home, they will quickly change more inline with their personality bent. Those that have a more task oriented personality will be more inclined to control their spending—those with a more people oriented personality will tend toward spending unwisely. Those that are outgoing AND people oriented have the greatest chance of waking up one day to a huge debt—and not knowing how they got there. KNOWING the way they are wired now, you can help them build “systems”—ways to see the problem beforehand and respond accordingly to prepare them for the inevitable. The same is true for scheduling your time—even more important than money—and communicating correctly.

    The emotional part of our students brain (amygdala) is well developed at this point and leading the charge in their emotions and actions, while the frontal cortex—the part that governs reasoning and planning—is still developing. If your student has some positive accountability from one or more peers and people they respect, they can get on target and STAY on target through those difficult transition years and graduate ready to launch into life—instead of paying for bad decisions for the next decade. I’ve coached, counseled, and mentored too many 25–30 year olds that talk about “the lost decade”—the past 10 years of their life they’re not sure what actually happened. We’re in a changing world and your student needs to be primed to spring from college—or from high school if not going to college—and take the day by storm. My mentor John C. Maxwell—author of over 80 books on leadership and voted #1 leadership expert in the world for the past seven years—tells a great story of looking for the easy answer. During the first break of a speech he was giving, a college student came up to him and said with great intensity, “I’m short for time and I need to head off to a class—what is the one thing I need to know about leadership?” John, responding with equal intensity, said, “The one thing you need to know about leadership, is that there is more than one thing you need to know about leadership.”

    When I mentor and coach students in personal growth and leadership, I work from a list of over 100 topics. While I believe budgeting, scheduling, and excellent communication skills are at the top, there is a whole lot more needed as well, including living intentionality, character, values, tenacity, reflection, consistency, proper people skills, and self-discipline to name but a few. I think it’s paramount that we know our students personality profile and our own profile, so we can understand them better, mentor them through these final years of preparation, and launch them into life with their eyes wide open, their hearts prepared for the task, and their minds set on doing the right thing because they have been mentored well over the long haul. Now is not the time to relax because we have graduated our student, it’s time to dig in deeper and ensure they get plugged into a good mentor for the coming transition years. It will save a lifetime of headache and heartache for both you and your student and help them to get to where they really want to be.

    Blessings. ~Royce


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