Youth can learn money management from many sources

A multi-faceted approach to financial education provides the best impact for youth.

Financial education for youth is most successful when it involves different levels of adult engagement. It can occur in school settings, after-school programs, mentoring programs and in families. This multi-faceted approach is more effective than considering that one approach will have the most beneficial results.

Parents or guardians usually provide the models for financial behavior. Children can experience the concept of saving, spending and also the important concept of delayed gratification by watching their parents or guardians. Delayed gratification can be demonstrated through modeled behavior or the structure parents provide that every wish a child has is not immediately granted. Parents might also provide money management experience through an allowance or gifted money. Chores for money can demonstrate how money is earned and how there are choices on how that money is used (opportunity costs).

In-school financial education programs can provide a foundation for youth, especially important when a home environment does not support positive behaviors. In-school programs are not as common across the state as might be desired; however, this education can be incorporated into existing curriculum topics and can even begin during the elementary school years. More research is needed to understand the long-term impact on in-school money management education, but the topic considers to be explored in relation to curriculum development and impact.

After-school programs are another growing delivery method for youth financial education. This approach typically focuses on a few lessons or topics rather than a broad educational course. It provides an opportunity for outside presenters or volunteers to be engaged in the education and it can often reach at-risk youth in the community when taking place within a strong, after-school program. This delivery method is also effective when working with mandated or community-based programs such as human services agencies, like foster care or adjudicated youth, or alternative education programs.

Finally, mentoring programs, whether one-on-one or small group, provide opportunities for financial education from an outside-the-family adult figure. This delivery method allows for shared learning, as well as another source of modeling money management behaviors. There are also short activities that mentors can engage in with youth as part of the mentoring time together.

Successful financial education with youth will be the most impactful when approached from different delivery methods. These varied approaches will help reach youth where they are, as well as expose them to new ideas and information they might not have experienced otherwise.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to equip adults to educate youth on financial education topics

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