Teens Struggle with Saving Money

Maggie Lin, a 17-year-old high school student from Baruch College Campus High School, has worked every summer since she was 14. In addition to the money that she makes in her summer jobs, her mom also gives her a weekly allowance whenever she runs out. In an attempt to save, she keeps her money in a box at home. However, the money she saves won’t last for long—she plans to spend it on Black Friday shopping.

Many teens do not understand the importance of money management or the importance of saving their money, several admitted during interviews. Many also said they think there are differences in spending habits between young people who work and those who receive allowances from parents.

“I am definitely tempted to spend the money with me. Whatever I have, I spend it. I spend on clothes and shoes,” Lin says.

“My mom gives me a few guides as to what to spend, what not to spend and to buy things that I need and not things that I want,” Lin says. “She always tells me that I have too much clothes but I never listen to her. She doesn’t have control over the money I worked for.”

Teens who only receive allowance say they rely on their parents to help them when they run out of money. They do not need to consider the possibility of going entirely broke because their parents would always give them more money, or buy them the things that they want.

“My mom buys all my clothes and makeup and everything. And when I go shopping, she just gives me extra money,” says Hui Yi Liang, a high school student at Baruch College Campus High School.

“My parents usually get me what I want because I do well in school and I’m not a ‘bad’ kid,” says Kristin Liang, also a student from Baruch College Campus High School. “I usually buy it regardless of the price, but I would be more likely to buy if it was on sale.”

However, not all teens who receive allowance spend mindlessly.

“I look at the prices [and] discounts to show that I am smart enough to manage my money,” says Xiao Ming Chen, a 17-year-old who only receives allowance from her parents.

“The only person who works is my dad, so both my mom and I try to save money for our own use and not to spend all of it,” says Kathy Chiam, a 17- year- old student at Baruch College Campus High school. “I always ask myself, do I really need to buy it? I always try to save some money when I go shopping. But if it’s something I really want, I would only buy that and nothing else and go window shopping.”

According to a survey conducted by Charles Schwab, an investment bank, 86 percent of teens say they would rather learn about money management in a class before making mistakes in the real world, and 75 percent say that learning about money management, including budgeting, saving, and investing is one of their top priorities.

According to Mandy Lau, a Personal Finance teacher in Baruch College Campus High School, having emergency funds would be extremely helpful when going through a job loss or health issues in life.

“I think teaching personal finance to high school students is so important because it teaches individuals at a young age how to be responsible with their money in order to avoid dire financial situations in the future,” she said.

Most teens have the intent to save for the future, but some, like 16-year-old Vivian Chow, just can’t resist spending when they see something that they like.

“If it’s something I really, really want, I’ll just suck it up and buy it,” she said.

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