Money Management and Youth

Money management is a complex topic.  Teaching youth about money can be even more challenging.  So, what are some lessons that young people can learn that will help put them on the path of financial success?

Wants versus needs

It is important to determine and define your wants versus needs.  A need is defined as something that is required for survival. Often, we think of our basic needs of air, water, shelter, food, and clothing.  A want is defined as something that enriches your life but is not required.  Oftentimes, wants make life more enjoyable and comfortable.  The needs and wants of everyone are different, as our situations as individuals are unique.  Also, needs and wants may change over time, depending on age and stage of life.


Defining and understanding the difference between wants and needs is very important to money management.  Prioritizing by your needs and wants helps to determine how your money is spent.   Having conversations with youth to brainstorm about wants and needs can be an important first step of making sure that money is not a taboo topic.


Determining your values

Next, have some conversation with youth about what is important to them.  The ideas about what is important to you are known as your values.  You may share some of your values and priorities throughout the conversation. Values are influenced by things and people that have touched our lives. Values are often influenced by family, community, culture, and experiences.

Deciding what is important to you and what your values are help you to set your long-term and short-term financial goals.   Some values may include paying rent or other bills on time, education for yourself, or contributing to a charitable organization.   Values, in addition to how money is/was talked about in our families, and how financial decisions are made all contribute to our money personality.  Our money personality helps to determine our goals, otherwise known as your hopes and plans for the future.


SMART goals

Once your values have been determined, it is time to start thinking about SMART Goals.  This means that goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound



Specific goals are focused and will state exactly what you intend to accomplish.  The more details that you can provide, the better. Think about who, what, when, and where.



Goals that are measurable are quantifiable. The goal has a point of reference or rubric by which it is measured. You may ask questions such as: how much? or how many? Think about how you will know when a goal is accomplished.



Goals that are attainable are goals that are achievable. The goal should be challenging. However, the goal should not be so difficult that you are unable to accomplish it.



Relevant goals are goals that are important to you. They should be consistent with what you hope to achieve. Also, short term goals should build onto long term goals.



Goals must have a time period attached to them.  There should be a starting point and an ending point to your goals. Limiting the time that you have to accomplish a goal often motivates you to accomplish it.


Spending Plan

Spending plans are also known as budgets.  Budgets take into account both income, or how much you earn, and expenses, or how much you spend.  Typically, spending plans are based on one month’s income and expenses.  To formulate a spending plan, you’ll need an accurate figure for youth monthly income and a list of your monthly expenses.


To create a budget:

  1. Write down your month income, the money available after taxes and other deductions.
  2. Write down your monthly expenses. There are two types of monthly expenses: fixed and flexible.  Fixed expenses are the same every month, for example a car payment.  Many people also include savings as a fixed expense, also known as paying yourself first.  This practice assists with having money set aside for unexpected future expenses and can help contribute to long-term financial well-being. Flexible expenses consist of items that may fluctuate in amount form month to month, such as food clothing, personal care, and many daily expenses.  There are also periodic expenses to consider.  Examples are insurance if you do not pay for it monthly and car maintenance.  You’ll want to determine what the yearly costs is for periodic expenses, then divide that number by 12 to get your estimated monthly amount.
  3. Once income and expenses are determined, subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income. This number will help you to determine whether you are in budget or need to adjust your spending plan.

This is an eye-opening activity to do with youth.  Spending plans may be created using paper and pencil, or via several different apps.

Job, careers, and education

Our jobs and careers may have a strong impact on our income.  As youth decide what they would like to do in the future, there are decisions to be made about jobs, careers, and education.  One way to explore different types of jobs and careers is through the University of Florida IFAS Extension Seminole County 4-H programs.  Opportunities exist to learn through a variety of different 4-H projects.  There are over 50 different projects offered through 4-H clubs and activities, including hiking, agriculture, cooking, financial management, and more.   The Living On My Own program takes places in partnership with the Seminole County Public Schools Office of Community Involvement to provide middle schools students the opportunity to participate in a hands-on simulation to help youth understand the cost of living for one month in their adult life. Several events also promote career preparation, including 4-H University, which is a week-long event for youth ages 14-18 (as of September 1, 2021) and takes place at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  Attendees have the opportunity to participate in educational workshops, explore career opportunities, participate in community service activities, interact with youth from all over the state, and have fun while developing critical life skills that will help them become productive and engaged citizens of the communities, their country, and their world.  Want to learn more, email






Posted: April 25, 2022

Category: 4-H & Youth, Money Matters,
Tags: 4-H, Budget, Finance, Karen Henry, Money, SMART Goals, Spending, Youth

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