When your children become teenagers: What now?


This article is part of our “What Now?” series that helps multigenerational families prepare for life changes. With access to all the capabilities of Merrill, Private Wealth Management is uniquely situated to help with whole-family wealth plans so that every generation may leave their lasting legacy.

Getting off to a strong start in your lifelong relationship with money can be critical to future financial success. For many of us, this journey starts when we become teenagers.

When your child becomes a teenager, they’ll need your help to understand how personal finances work. Every child is different, so it's important to recognize their strengths, weaknesses and level of interest when managing money.

Here, you’ll find some resources for financial basics, which are meant to start conversations with your teenager. We've also added some ideas to help you work with your teenager to get them off to a positive start as they explore personal finances for the first time.


A mother and her teenage daughter look at a laptop.

While “balancing a checkbook” is an outdated phrase due to the prevalence of online transactions, budgeting remains a critical financial skill. It’s an ideal place to start discussing financial responsibility.

While you provide for their daily needs as a parent, teenagers oſten need help spending responsibly, such as knowing the difference between “needs” and “wants.” For example, is it a need or a want to upgrade to the latest phone when you have the most recent generation?

What you can do

Create and monitor a budget together

Whether you’re providing them with an allowance or they have other income, teach them about spending less than they earn, using credit wisely and the importance of saving.

Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • How much do you anticipate depositing in your accounts each month?
  • What do you spend your money on?
  • Do you have any savings goals, like an upcoming trip?
  • Are you spending money you don’t need to?

Learn more about budgeting.

Checking and savings accounts

A mother and her teenage daughter sit and talk with an advisor.

Start by providing an overview of how banking works, including the different types of accounts, like checking and savings.

Learning how to save properly can make a big difference. Talk to them about their savings goals and consider having them set a target to deposit into their savings account each month.

Teenagers can make common mistakes, like letting their account balance get too low or going into overdraſt. Be sure to address these pitfalls and how to avoid them by paying very close attention to their balances and setting notifications.

What you can do

Set up bank accounts with your teenager

Contact your Merrill Private Wealth Advisor and set up a time to bring your child in to set up their bank accounts. We can also help them learn to use the Merrill app, including setting up notifications for low balances, debit card charges and more.

Teach them about compounding

Compounding is a complex concept that may not instantly inspire teenagers, especially given the long time frames required to see results. But they should be aware of the power of compounding when saving and the difference it can make in the future.

If they have a debit card, try this debit card guide for teenagers.


A father and his teenage son sit on a porch and talk.

Investing is a strategy for building wealth, and it can help them put the money they’ve saved to work.

Investing requires intention, attention, knowledge and energy. Many young adults are interested in concepts like Impact Investing, as it can align with their growing set of values, adds Anita. Your teen should understand not only how investments operate but also the strategy behind them.

What you can do

Help them invest with purpose and goals

Start by having a conversation with your teen about their passions and personal goals.

  • What do they want to achieve?
  • What are they passionate about? If there’s a company they’re interested in, do the investment research together.
  • Explain the benefits and risks, including the potential for losing your investment.
  • Consider giving them a subscription to a financial publication.

Establish an investment account with your teen

At this stage, we recommend you involve your Merrill Private Wealth Advisor team, as they can help set up an account and explain the intricacies of investing, like the different asset types.

See more investing basics and ask your advisor for investing guides for your teen.

Giving back

A team of teenage volunteers in green shirts and hardhats put up a wall frame.

Philanthropy can be an ideal way to discuss both your teenager’s and your family’s values. What are they passionate about? What impact would they like to have on the world? Even if the answers don’t necessarily reflect your own values, it’s important to listen and help guide them on their philanthropic journey.

While they may be in a position to assist a cause financially now or later in life, they should understand that money is not the only thing charitable organizations need. Their time, in the form of volunteering, can oſten be just as valuable — particularly as they begin to earn their place in society.

What you can do

Find a cause you can participate in together

As you learn what they’re passionate about, consider becoming involved in the cause together. This may be an organization you already support, or a new one your teen is interested in.

Consider involving them in your philanthropic decisions

If you’d like to have your children continue the legacy you’ve established, you may want to involve them in your charitable efforts. For example, you could walk them through a financial donation and your personal process for making those determinations.

Learn more about helping young adults with philanthropy.

Contact your advisor with any questions or if you'd like to learn more about our financial education program.

A private wealth advisor can help you get started.

Our advisors can help you follow your passions, build a legacy and have a positive impact on others.