Personal Finance Education

We outline the financial learning opportunities throughout life's major milestones

Personal Finance Education for Life’s Milestones

In years past, most high school students took a class along the lines of "personal finance." Teens learned basic skills such as running a household on a budget, balancing a checkbook, and how compound interest works. This class set students up for the future with fundamental financial concepts and a level of confidence that they could manage their money in the real world.

Unfortunately, this type of education has been all but eliminated from current school curricula. Sometimes students can take a short seminar taught by someone from a nearby bank or local insurance agency, but many high school students are getting little to no personal finance education. The good news is that there are a lot of online resources for this type of information, but parents or students have to make it a point to seek out the instruction. Here is a list of some of the major age milestones in everyone's life and some of the opportunities for learning about financial topics.

Personal Finance Education

Younger Years


Many parents open a bank account for their young children so they can start saving money for college. Or, they may wait until their kids are a little older so they can help their middle school students learn how to save money on a regular basis. Some ambitious students about to leave middle school might already be saving money to purchase a car in a few years.

Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Putting money into a savings account on a regular schedule.

High School Years

The high school years are when students get a chance to learn some financial independence lessons. Many will open a checking account so they can use a debit card for personal purchases. If they have a part-time job, they should be saving a portion of their paychecks for major purchases or for a college fund.

High school is a great time to teach students how to set and work within a budget. In fact, teens that have income from a job likely will be expected to pay for car insurance, gas, and personal expenses, all of which require budgeting skills. Students who don't work often get some sort of allowance from their parents, and they must learn to stretch it to cover all kinds of costs.

One interesting change in the financial management world for the current generation of high school students is that mobile apps and online tools have altered the mechanism for managing bank accounts. Students can check their balances on the go and move money around fairly easily, so it may seem as though "balancing a checkbook" is an old-fashioned practice. But that's simply not true. Teens still need to understand that pending charges must be accounted for when making buying decisions. They may not be writing checks and filling out a register, but tracking transactions still are vital.


Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Opening a checking account, managing a checking account, creating and following a budget, paying taxes, paying bills on time, saving money regularly, and handling major purchases such as a vehicle.

College Years

College is a tricky time because many young adults still are receiving money from their parents, whether it is for tuition, living expenses, or both. Some people, however, put themselves through college by working a full- or part-time job while also attending classes. There are a lot of potential financial burdens for college students, and that may include the accrual of student loan debt.

No matter where their income during the college years springs from, students must build upon the budgeting lessons they learned in high school. They likely are paying rent for an apartment, food costs, vehicle expenses, school book purchases and any number of other expenses. It is important to note that during this time, students are building the foundation of their credit score, so it is vital that they don't turn in late payments or default on loans.

The college years are a terrific time for students to learn healthy personal finance habits that will set them up for the period after they graduate. They should seek out any additional information possible about managing money in the real world, particularly if they will have student loan payments starting six months after they graduate. If you're applying to college be sure to speak with student loan companies about payments and rates upon graduation. Only consider the company that fits within your budget.

Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Budgeting, managing living expenses, on-time payments, paying taxes, building credit and saving money regularly.

Young Adulthood

The years after college are when graduates really get inundated with the full force of financial independence. Unless they are going to graduate school, young adults likely are on the hunt for a "real job," though they may be working a service job at the same time to make ends meet.

It may seem strange to think about it but the 20s are the years to start saving for retirement.

In the past decade or so, many college graduates have moved back in with their parents to avoid accruing additional debt while they look for a professional job, but this is less than ideal. The best way to gain financial independence is to set up a household and find a steady income that will cover expenses, even if it is not a dream job right out of the gate.

College graduates will find that the credit score foundation they started building during school comes in handy at this stage. A history of on-time payments will help them get an apartment, and, of course, proof of income is also required.

Young adults who demonstrate responsibility and a willingness to work are already on the path to financial independence, but they will have to work hard if they aspire to thrive in their late 20s. That is the time when many people take major financial leaps such as getting married, taking on a mortgage and having children.

Part of choosing a good first job is analyzing the benefits package. Many jobs come with medical insurance benefits, but not all of them. People who don't get medical insurance through their employer will have foot the bill themselves. Fortunately, there are helpful options available that can smooth that process and put the cost of premiums within reach. Young adults who need help in this realm should check with their local insurance agency to learn about options.

Finally, the 20s are the years to start saving for retirement. It may seem strange to think about leaving the workforce at the same time employees have just entered it, but it really is a crucial consideration. People who start putting money into a savings plan or 401k at this stage will end up with a far larger accrual when they reach retirement age. Many young adults feel that they must skip retirement savings in their 20s because they need every penny to pay student loans or make "grown up purchases." But if workers start with just a small 401k contribution at this point, they will be less likely to notice what is missing from their paycheck. They will become accustomed to saving for retirement and therefore more likely to contribute throughout their entire working life. As their income grows, they can increase the amount they are setting aside each year. Plus, because many employers match 401k contributions up to a certain percentage, workers who eschew savings are ultimately turning down free money.

Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Budgeting, on-time payments, managing household expenses, paying taxes, retirement savings, medical insurance management, building credit and saving money regularly.

Older Adulthood

The years between age 30 and about 55 are the real "meat" of one's financial-growth period. This is the time when employees are advancing in their careers, increasing their income and perhaps changing jobs to move up the ladder or starting their own businesses.

It is also the time that people usually accrue the largest amount of debt. Children and houses are major expenses. People might accumulate "toys" such as vacation homes, boats, recreational vehicles or other big-ticket items. There is a fine line between living on a budget and outspending one's means. If adults enjoy a large income and can afford to make major purchases, they certainly have the right to do so. However, they should only consider it after their student loans are paid, they are able to cover their monthly living expenses and they are saving for retirement.

As people start getting to their mid-40s to 50s, they might have college expenses for their children to consider. Ideally, they would have started saving when their children are born, as discussed in the first part of this article. When one combines the cost of a house, college tuition, retirement savings, living expenses and all the other routine costs that affect everyone's lives, it can seem a little overwhelming financially. This is where the solid foundation built during the teen years will come in the most handily.

There are two additional factors many people are thinking about in their older adult years: life insurance and financial investments. The best time to get in on a good term life insurance policy is in the 30s when people are in good health and can negotiate better rates. If they wait until they are older, it can be more difficult and costlier to find life insurance coverage. Some life insurance policies can be used as leverage for loans in the future if needed.

When it comes to planning for retirement, many workers seek the assistance of a financial planner. The options for long-term savings and growing investments can be complicated, so it is best to get help navigating decisions. By the late 40s, employees should be saving as much for retirement as possible and making every dollar in their savings accounts work for them. A wealth management advisor can maximize one's growth potential in preparation for the retirement years.

Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Budgeting, understanding debt-to-income ratios, investing in life insurance, saving for retirement, managing household expenses, paying for children's college, paying taxes and saving money regularly.


At long last, it is time to enjoy the fruits of one's labor. People are now retiring within a huge range of time frames, from age 55 to age 75. This decision largely rests on how much money they've been able to store for retirement up to this point.

In a way, things have come full circle. Most retired people still have to live on a fixed income, meaning the budgeting lessons they learned in high school are once again the biggest factor in the quality of their lifestyle.

Retirees must be forever mindful of how much money they have and what type of activities they can afford. For example, many people love to travel during their 60s. Others decide to downsize from their large family home to a smaller, less expensive condo in order to free up cash and maintenance time. It can be easy for people to see a large balance in their investment accounts and go on a spending spree. But because people are living longer, it is vital to stretch that fund as far as it can go.

As people age into their 70s and 80s, expenses may rise based on their medical status. Health issues can take a real toll on savings accounts. The death of a spouse is another significant financial burden that must be anticipated in the later years. Many elderly people decide to leave their own home altogether and move into a retirement village or nursing home, depending on their health. All of these changes carry significant financial ramifications.

Personal Finance Lessons for this Age

Budgeting, paying for life and medical insurance, managing retirement funds, managing household expenses, paying taxes and legacy planning for heirs.

Personal Finance Education Recap

Throughout a 90-year lifespan, there are many financial milestones that everyone must contend with. By starting with a solid foundation during the teen years and early adulthood, individuals are better prepared to gain financial independence as they get older. However, most people are on their own when it comes to learning these vital lessons. This list of milestones highlights the major steps along that path.

A solid credit score is crucial to life's many purchases. If you need help keeping things under control, consider the best credit monitoring service. If you're looking for a way to store your cash while receiving some neat perks, take a look at the best online savings accounts.

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