While it might seem unreasonable to ask that teenagers become financially independent, there are actually many actions you can take in your youth to make financial independence easier to obtain in the future.
Of course, you likely won’t be fully financially independent as a teenager living at home, but by using the tips below, you can possibly be set up for meeting your long-range financial goals shortly after high school or college. So, if you want to learn how to become financially independent and take care of your own money, keep reading!
What is Considered “Financial Independence”?
Many different things could be considered “financial independence,” depending on your age and who you ask. For many parents, their teen would be regarded as “independent” if they used all their own money to purchase anything that wasn’t entirely necessary. While your parents are obligated to provide you with necessities like food, clothing, and housing, it’s always good to make your own money to pay for things like snacks, games, clothes, and hanging out or doing activities with friends. Teenagers are typically not asked to be completely financially independent by their parents, so this is an excellent place to start.
Below are ten significant actions you can take as a teenager to ensure your financial independence for the future. While you may not be able to do all of these things, even knocking out a couple can make a huge difference in your future budgeting goals.
Get a Job
Getting a job, even a low-maintenance job, is a great start to the path to financial independence as a teen. Whether you work at a retail store, coffee shop, restaurant, or something else, getting a job will teach you the value of your time and the value of a dollar. Additionally, getting a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck will help you learn about taxes and what gets removed from your paycheck every week. If you don’t have transportation to get to your job, you can ask your parents or older siblings to drive you, or you can bike or find a bus route that will take you there.
Get Good Grades
While getting good grades might not seem like it directly relates to financial independence, doing well in school sets you up to succeed in your future. By doing well in school and excelling in your classes, you will likely get the attention of good colleges that want you to attend. Going to a good college connects you with great students, faculty, and an alumni network who are all rooting for you to succeed. So, as much as possible, keep trying for those A’s!
Start Saving for College
You probably won’t be able to pay your way through college alone, no matter how early you start working and saving in your teen years. However, saving for college using your own money from a job will help take some of the load off of your parents and allow you to use your money more freely while you are away at school. Every week, take a specific percentage of your money out of your paycheck and put it into a savings account designated solely for your college savings. By the time you actually go to school, you will likely have accumulated quite a bit of money.
Similar to the last tip, investing your money is another great thing to do for your future financial independence. Whether you choose to invest in the stock market, NFTs, physical assets, or something else, put your money in a stable place by keeping it somewhere other than a savings account (where inflation will eat away at it). One of the best things teens can do is to invest small amounts of money every so often into very stable mutual fund indexes (such as the S&P 500), which will accumulate minimal but stable growth each year.
Open a Retirement Account
You might be thinking to yourself, “I’m only ____! Isn’t it way too early for me to start saving for retirement?” Well, the answer is absolutely not! There is no age that’s “too early” to start saving for retirement, and compound interest means that the earlier you start putting money away, the more you’ll have once you actually retire. When looking back on their lives, many people wish they’d started saving for retirement much earlier or put more money aside from each paycheck. So, don’t wait! Save for retirement now to ensure a comfortable future.
Don’t Get Into Debt
It might be incredibly tempting to enter your favorite store and sign your name for a new, shiny credit card that promises thousands of points and cash back. However, it can also be tempting to use this card for things you cannot afford and wind yourself up in a whole lot of credit card debt. It can be very difficult to get out of debt, and interest can make it even more expensive. At this point, you should only use credit cards to build your credit history and establish a good credit score. To do this, you can charge one small amount each month (something under $20, for example) and pay it off immediately before the bill is due.
Apply for Scholarships
Applying for scholarships will not only take some of the pressure off of you and your parents when it comes to paying for school, but it will also reduce the overall amount of money you’ll need to save toward school. This is because scholarships are a form of “gift aid” for college that does not need to be repaid, so accumulate as much of it as you can. Scholarships are usually offered by your high school or other private entities.
Keep Good Money Habits
All of the habits mentioned on this list are smart money habits, but it’s so important to stay in the mindset of remembering how important your money actually is. Once you have a job, you will understand why it’s vital to say “no” occasionally when invited to dinner or asked to go shopping. Sometimes, the best choice regarding what to do with your money is to save it.
Budget, budget, budget! Budgeting is the best tip to help you save money and allocate what you actually need, and there are so many free budgeting tools online to help you do it. Whether you use a printed money planner from a site like Canva or an online spending tracker tool, there are many fun ways to stop buying useless things and instead watch your savings stack up.
Take on a Side Hustle
A “side hustle” is essentially another job or another form of income outside of your regular paycheck. For students, it can also just be a side job you do outside of school. One of the most popular side hustles in recent years is taking online surveys for money. This is a gig that can be done 24/7, 365 days a year. One of the best and most popular sites to take surveys for cash is Branded Surveys, which has thousands of positive reviews on Trustpilot and has been around for over a decade. So if you need a side hustle to help you make a little extra cash on nights or weekends, you’ll want to check them out!
Other side hustles include food delivery, selling arts and crafts online, or even tutoring online. There are plenty of ways to boost your income to become more financially independent as a teen. And the sooner you create good money habits, the easier life will flow in the years to come.