Q: I would like to do a “spending fast” with a youth council. Do you have any suggestions on how to get the youth to buy into the fast?
Denise, Washington, DC
A: First, good for you for trying to help young folks manage their money. And, what timing for your question, because April is financial literacy month.
In a proclamation for the month, President Obama said: “Americans’
ability to build a secure future for themselves and their families
requires the navigation of an increasingly complex financial system. As
we recover from the worst economic crisis in generations, it is more
important than ever to be knowledgeable about the consequences of our
In a survey a few years ago, the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal
Financial Literacy found that high school students’ use of credit cards
was up. “The long-term health of our economy will be determined by how
well we educate young people today,” said Eddy Bayardelle, president of
the Merrill Lynch Foundation, when that survey was released.
In the Coalition’s biennial survey, high school seniors correctly answered only 48.3% of the questions.
A good source of information to teach youth can be found at the
Jump$tart Clearinghouse, which lists more than 700 titles of financial
literacy materials, many with free information.
So, how do you get kids interested in curbing their spending?
Ask them what they want. Are they planning to attend college, and if
so, how will they or their parents pay for it? Would they like to buy a
car one day? Do they want a better cell phone than the one they have?
You see, they won’t buy into a spending fast (pun intended) unless
they have something to save for. Get them to identify their financial
wish list. Then you can personalize why the spending fast is a good
thing for them individually.
And, if I may be so bold, my latest book, The Power to Prosper: 21
Days to Financial Freedom, provides a template for a spending fast. I
encourage people to eliminate shopping for 21 days. In addition, you
can’t use credit or debt cards for 21 days. You only have to read one
chapter a day.
When I’ve had young people do the fast, they are amazed at how much
they spend, even when they don’t have much money. A fast is a great idea
and I know they will learn a lot.