Newswise — Teaching financial responsibility is most effective during that time in a young person's life when they are most impressionable. That time is during the tween years, explains Jan Brakefield, assistant professor of consumer sciences at The University of Alabama.
"They don't date. They don't drive. They perhaps earn an allowance and are paid for chores by their parents and grandparents," says Brakefield. "They are eager to learn about what they can do with their money."
At such an impressionable point in their lives, tweens are subject to more marketing ploys. And, it often works. With $43 billion dollars in spending power just last year, the tween market is big business, and companies are cashing in on tweens' desire to fit in. After all, this is the market that created very profitable marketing franchises such as Hannah Montana and Harry Potter.
However, the impressionable nature of tweens also allows parents and educators to teach lasting money management skills.
"Tweens soak up this information, where as teens have already become subject to instant gratification," says Brakefield. "The concept of needs versus wants should come early—and they must learn to delay gratification at this time."
Fortunately, the recent economic downturn has spurred parents to teach their tweens about saving.
"The economic turmoil has actually had a positive impact," notes Brakefield. "We've seen a tremendous turnaround in the savings rate—from less than 1 percent to about 8 percent. Parents are saving now, which is a good model for their children."
Brakefield has experience with teaching these skills and seeing the results. For the last two years, she has led a two-week summer camp focused solely on money management skills for tweens. Campers learn to prioritize their needs and wants, and set goals for attaining them while avoiding pressure to sidetrack their plans.
"The best thing about teaching this age group is seeing them set goals and work to reach them. They will appreciate the things they buy."